At VolunteerSquare.com, we love to see our partner agencies taking creative approaches to giving back and supporting their own communities. In Norwalk, the YMCA is doing just that, kicking off a program that is all about supporting family bonds through basketball.
For the third year in a row, the Norwalk Y has teamed up with the Allan Houston Foundation. Houston, the former star New York Knick, started his foundation in the aftermath of the 9.11 attacks. Today, it has grown and expanded nationally to encompass a wide range of services from entrepreneurship to parenting.
The Norwalk YMCA is a partner with the Foundation and is once again running Houston’s Faith, Integrity, Service, Leadership and Legacy, or F.I.S.L.L., program. It is a basketball-centered curriculum that incorporates both play and real-life exercises to help strengthen the bonds between children and fathers, or father figures. It is comprised of seven weekly sessions. So far, the Y has served more than 130 fathers and children, boys and girls, from fifth through twelfth grade.
Organizers at the Y say the program draws heavily on the example of Martin Luther King Jr. For two hours a week on Friday nights, the participants share a meal or snack together and then spend an educational hour-long session focusing on some of the key elements of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and service. After that, the second hour is spent on the basketball court to apply those lessons in the context of drills and skill development.
According to the Allan Houston Foundation, 95 percent of all F.I.S.L.L. participants gained valuable relationship tools and 95 percent also improved their existing relationships. Organizers at the Norwalk Y say they see a real need for more programs, and results, like this in their community.
“The great thing about this program is it’s all done in a really friendly, positive environment and the children and adults work together to create a strong bond,” said YMCA Christian & Community Liaison Bill Tetreault. “We feel that improving and developing strong relationships is key, especially in some of the neighborhoods in our area where there can sometimes be a need for a positive parental figure or role model.”
The Norwalk Y says it doesn’t want the learning to stop when the program ends either. This year, they are raising money with a Family Fun Fest on September 29th to help offset the cost of YMCA memberships for the participants so that they can continue to use the facility and foster the bonds they built in the F.I.S.L.L. program. The Fun Fest will feature live music and entertainment, crafts, games and prizes. And they need volunteers! They are looking for help in the areas of entertainment, dance, musicianship, or vocal performance as well as arts and crafts and hospitality.
If you’d like to participate in the F.I.S.L.L. program itself, the Y needs help starting around 6:30 p.m. each Friday night to help set up, check in participants, and clean up. They are also looking for potential mentors to participate with kids in the program as well as individuals who may want to present a motivational story or experience about fatherhood.
If you’re interested in helping out you can contact Jason Steer or Bill Tetreault at 203.866.4425. To learn more about the Norwalk YMCA and other volunteer opportunities in Fairfield County visit our website, VolunteerSquare.com. It’s free and easy!