Every parent searches for ways to entertain their kids in the winter. When sledding and snowmen wear out their welcome–or, as with this year, there’s no snow at all–where do families turn?
Seven years ago, one mom decided to take matters into her own hands, forming ’s Jr. Pro Basketball.
“The program was started … by a mother who made a promise to her son to start a league at his school,” explained mom and committee member Lisa LePage.
These days, the program is still running strong, and is the only elementary school-based basketball league in Dearborn. Completely volunteer-run, dad and committee member Chris Coleman explained that the program is all about fun.
“The whole concept is teaching kids to have fun, exercise and stay active,” he said. “Everything is all done by parents stepping up.”
Teams (16 in total) are divided by male and female, and by grades into “upper” and “lower” divisions. Children in grades first through sixth can participate, and a kindergarten basketball clinic was just added this year. Most players attend Long, though exceptions are made for those with ties to the school–such as City Councilman Tom Tafelski’s kids, whose grandmother was a teacher at the school.
Parents sell concessions to raise funds, and teams play against each other on Fridays and Saturdays in February and March. Much of the funding for the program–about $4,000 per year–comes from local sponsors, including TLC Pharmacy, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sickle’s Dance Academy, and many others.
A special "Parents Game" weekend will be held on March 16 and 17, with moms and dads taking on their talented kids on the court.
Registration is $20 per student, and parents are encouraged to log volunteer hours. Almost all of them do, said Coleman, who runs the program’s committee along with LePage and Connie Boski, Jeff Powell and Norman Kaleto.
“There’s no way we could do this without parents helping out and volunteering,” he said.
Principal Veronica Jakubus, who often comes by to watch the kids play, agreed.
“Long parents are incredible,” she said.
As are the students, Jakubus added, who are guided by a program that teaches them teamwork and healthy habits.
“You see students who aren’t always the first to excel really find themselves,” she said. “This helps them build confidence.”
And it leaves a lasting impression on the kids, said Coleman, whose son Connor currently plays and daughter, Megan, played all through elementary school. Other students who were in the program in its infancy now help coach teams and referee games.
“It teaches them teamwork, sportsmanship, and giving back to the community,” he said. “It’s been a huge success.”
Would you like to make a donation to Long’s Jr. Pro Basketball program, or become a sponsor? Contact the school at 313-827-6100. Check out updates on the team (and photos) on the Long Jr. Pro Basketball Facebook page.