Youth and Family Services Thunders up
By Traci Chapman
Just more than a year after an EF-5 tornado caused more than $1 million in damage at Youth and Family Services, children and youth can play basketball.
A new court was unveiled in a special ceremony Monday, attended by YFS officials, area residents, Thunder Girls and Drummers and other Oklahoma City Thunder officials. Thunder Cares Foundation provided funds to rebuild the YFS court as part of a million dollar tornado relief effort, said Dan Mahoney, Thunder vice president of corporation communications and community relations.
The foundation got involved in similar efforts after the May 20 tornado in Moore, Mahoney said Tuesday. Eleven days later, another tornado hit Canadian County, and officials realized they should expand their original efforts, he said.
“One of the key functions of the foundation is to refurbish basketball courts,” Mahoney said. We want to instill a love of the game, promote the physical fitness aspect of it.
“When we heard about Youth and Family Services, we knew this was a great opportunity not just to rebuild the court, but to also make a difference in the lives of these children.”
The foundation is also rebuilding three school courts in Moore, as well as other locations impacted by last year’s storms, Mahoney said. He was gratified by the Canadian County partnership and said what struck Thunder officials was their chance during Monday’s festivities to see first-hand the impact the new court had made.
“It was a joy to be out there last night and see so many kids out there enjoying the court already – it’s already in use, kids are already enjoying it,” Mahoney said.
The foundation helped make area children’s dreams come true in the wake of a storm that still resonates in the area, YFS Director Dee Blose said. The basketball court and playground were wiped out in the May 31 storm, which also severely damaged the roof and other areas of its offices. The court and playground are used by area children who visit the location and primarily children housed in the YFS children’s center, Blose said.
In April, YFs celebrated the opening of a new playground. Funded by Devon Energy and KaBOOM! The partnership not only funded the equipment; more than 200 volunteers, many of them Devon employees, were on hand to construct the playground April 12.
It’s an ongoing effort on behalf of area children who are at a difficult point in their lives when they arrive at YFS, Blose said. Children are taken to the shelter when their parents have legal issues, they are ordered removed from the home or there are other problems which could threaten their safety and well-being.
“Having things like this help our kids to feel like everything’s going to be OK,” Blose said. “We can’t get over the generosity of people and businesses who have shown their best after the damage the tornado left behind.”