INDIANAPOLIS — The effort continues to build a safe place for kids to play sports and learn life skills in one southwest side community.
Since 2017, a local leader in Mars Hill has had a goal to build the Mars Hill Youth Center at a property on the corner of Holt Road and Southern Avenue. Now, he's close to making that goal a reality but he still needs community support.
LEARN MORE & DONATE | Mars Hill Youth Center
"A lot of people look down on this neighborhood just because it's Mars Hill," Casey Chambers said. "I was born and raised here."
Chambers enrolled her kids in the Mars Hill Youth Center's basketball program two years ago. While fund-raising is still ongoing for the center, the kids play at Stout Field Elementary School. They've been to Pacers games as a team and Victor Oladipo even surprised them at practice last year. All opportunities these children wouldn't have had without the youth center's president, Pete Johnson.
"I have never had anyone want to do something for the kids the way Pastor Pete is," Casey said.
"I love sports and getting to meet him and knowing that people actually care about kids and want to give them a chance," Ashlinn Chambers said.
Johnson and Wayne Township Trustee Chuck Jones, who is supporting the project, both grew up in Mars Hill. It's a community where they said families often feel like they are forgotten. Transportation and money are often barriers that keep these kids from getting to travel further into Wayne Township where sports leagues are located. That's why they said the youth center is so important.
"We have nothing, there is nothing for the children to do," Jones said. "My fear is if we don't do nothing and these kids haven't got anything to do pretty soon they find trouble."
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"The best thing we can offer a child is a place where they feel like they can belong," Johnson said. "That's what we want. We want a child to leave our building, our program and say, 'Hey, they believe in me. I belong.'"
The Mars Hill Youth Center is already receiving support from the Wayne Township Trustee's Office and several local businesses and is 50 percent funded but they still need $150,000 to be able to complete the project.
They hope local businesses will see these children as a good opportunity to invest in the future.