BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Using basketball to promote positive physical and mental health is what the nonprofit Give N Grow (GNG) Basketball did 4 years ago; and over the past year their work has become more and more important.
“We have COVID, we have social injustice. We’ve had all of these things over the last year, ”said Ryan McFarland, Executive Director of GNG. “But a lot of the things that got swept under the rug were the mental well-being of our children.”
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McFarland and co-founder Ben Cecchini created the program in 2017.
“We teach that whatever you feel is okay,” McFarland explained. “But there’s a right way to embrace and deal with these emotions, and by equipping these kids with these skills, especially after the year has passed, you can’t really put a value on them. “
They have helped over 5,000 children over the years. Children like 10-year-old Mason Gunter who had a hard time last year.
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“It was difficult because I was alone. My sister was in college, ”Gunter said,“ I only had my parents. ”For Gunter, GNG is a chance to hang out and interact with friends. It also gives him a chance to learn and to grow as a person. “I learned mental and emotional skills and how to deal with my emotions.”
Five-star rookie and local high school basketball star Kwame Evans Jr. volunteers with GNG. Standing at 6 feet 8 inches tall, he is someone children admire in more than one way.
“Mindfulness and mental health are important to everyone. Usually you don’t know what someone is going through, ”Evans said. “So you just want to help them out as much as you can. “
Evans primarily works with kids on their basketball skills, but this program isn’t just for basketball players. Their skills learned in the program can be transferred to many aspects of life.
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This summer, they are using Instagram Give N Grow to open their program to kids around the world. It’s free to participate.