Back Your Block 

Local nonprofits compete for sports funding.

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Skatelife Memphis founder Aaron Shafer began teaching Uptown youth to skateboard in 2006 at the Golden Child Ministries after-school program at Greenlaw Community Center. But since the Skate Park of Memphis closed its doors last year, those kids haven't had a place to practice.

Shafer and Golden Child Ministries founder Detric Golden are competing against several other local nonprofits for a Nike Back Your Block grant, which provides up to $2,500 per store location. Since Memphis has two Nike stores, two grants will be awarded in the city.

If they win, Shafer and Golden plan to construct a half-pipe and a few skate ramps at the Greenlaw Community Center. "If we had ramps, we'd probably have 20 kids skating every day," Shafer says. "It's important to get these kids involved in something positive rather than things they shouldn't be doing."

To get the money, however, Skatelife must first win a popular vote on the NikeBackYourBlock.com website. Anyone can cast a vote for the handful of local nonprofits that have applied.

Although the votes are used to gauge community support for each proposal, a Nike grant selection committee will make the final decisions based on the merits of each proposal. Applicants must pledge to use the money to enhance the lives of young people through sports.

At press time, Skatelife Memphis had 640 votes compared with 86 votes for runner-up the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis.

Vinny Borello, president and CEO of the local Boys and Girls Club, says they'd use the money to enhance the sportsmanship and leadership aspects of their sports program.

"We want to make sure kids know it's not okay to throw a chair across the basketball court," Borello says.

The Thomas B. Davis Family YMCA had 34 votes and pledges to use the money to offer fee assistance for its programs for low-income youth and buy new equipment.

The Fogelman YMCA, with 13 votes, also has plans to invest the funds in Uptown.

"We've been working with a local Uptown church to provide an after-school program. We'd use the money from Nike to help purchase supplies, healthy snacks, and sporting goods," says Pete Shattuck, executive director of the Fogelman YMCA.

If Girls Incorporated of Memphis wins, the money will help pay for a program that introduces girls to sports like hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and even roller derby. Girls Inc. had six votes at press time.

Tennis Memphis, with 13 votes, also has applied for the funds to pay for its Whitehaven Healthy After School program, which encourages kids to exercise and eat healthy snacks.

Voting ends on Saturday, August 15th, and funds will be awarded by the first of October.

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