Summer Heatwave Hoping To Double Program Size
GAINESVILLE - Once school is out, law enforcement is usually on the lookout for more juveniles committing crimes. However one community effort is trying to help keep teens safe and crime low, over the summer months. The Summer Heatwave program hopes to reach one thousand kids with the help of crowd funding.
The Summer Heatwave program is free for boys and girls from the age of 13 to 19. It is a month long event that allows teenagers to get involved and take advantage of Gainesville's basketball courts and pools, while keeping busy.
According to Captain Lonnie Scott with the Gainesville Police Department, during the summer they see increased criminal activity between teenagers. "They're not in school… you have rival groups from different neighborhoods that have conflict and some of that conflict is physical. In an attempt to deal with that we came up with the concept of heatwave," Captain Scott said.
Doris Edwards an activist for the Eastside of Gainesville said, "But perpetrators are out there so this counteracts, this gives a better choice and that's what the young people have been asking for."
The program offers kids organized sports, pool parties, teen lounges and a safe space during evenings for the summer.
"It's essential… it's an essential program. Why do we need that program? Because young people have so much energy and because they like a variety… they don't like for you to just say you're going to do baseball, softball etc. Park and recreation put those programs together and they really do a great job," Edwards said.
Besides basketball and pool parties, this year the program has added tennis as one of their activities.
"They get a chance to see police officers in a different venue… not in a venue where they are being arrested or being in an adversarial type position… but more in a position where they see us as fathers as uncles-- as folks they can talk to," Captain Scott added.
Last year, 500 teenagers were a part of the Summer Heatwave. Part of the program is funded with money seized from illegal activities. This year the program is trying to double the amount of kids they can support by raising an additional $10,000.
"This is an investment in our youth. This helps us in the future because if we can just sway one from becoming a criminal or engage in criminal activity it's going to be a benefit to the society as a whole," said Captain Scott.
If you want to be involved you can volunteer your time as well. Those interested must be 18-years-old and will go through a background check. For more information on volunteering or scheduling click here.
For donations click here.
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