Midnight Run Basketball Program aimed at eradicating gun violence for young adults in Carbondale

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 5:56 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2021 at 6:01 PM CST
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - A program aimed at getting young adults off the streets begins Friday evening in Carbondale.

Organizers of the Midnight Run say it uses sports to teach kids how to better their lives.

“I think the best thing we can do for our youth is give them options so they can make better decisions and informed decisions,” said Dentmon Center General Manager Aaron Lee.

Lee says this program has worked in other communities he’s worked in before.

“To help eradicate gun violence, but also educate young people through sports,” Lee said.

Lee also says crime rates go down anywhere between 20 and 60 percent when you have leagues like this.

The basketball league is every Friday evening from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Dentmon Center in Carbondale. It’s Open to those age 16-24 with some exceptions.

“And so, we wanted to give kids an option versus saying behave better, do better. Here’s a way to do better and behave better at the same time cause that’s how our initiative came together,” said Lee.

One of the partners in this initiative is the Jackson County States Attorney.

“We want to give our youth as many options that we can as far as things to do after school. Different types of school, arts, music and of course athletics,” said Jackson County States Attorney Joe Cervantez.

Cervantez also said that being a part of this program allows him to help young people understand the importance of crime prevention.

“It means a lot to be apart of the program because I think that it’s very important for the community especially our youth and our young adults to understand how our system works, to be educated about crime prevention about prevention of drug abuse and substance as use. I think it’s important to educate them about how our criminal justice system works,” said Cervantez.

Cervantez tells me his office used forfeiture funds, money seized from drug dealers, to help pay for sports equipment.

“We went ahead and appropriated those funds to the Dentmon Center, specifically we purchased the jerseys, t shirts, the string strap backpacks and then mask for the kids,” said Cervantez.

Cervantez shares his excitement with me about this new opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to all the things that this leads to. And if we can keep working together, all the different organizations to bring programs like this to Carbondale,” said Cervantez.

Carbondale NAACP is also taking part in the project.

“The kids will have to be involved in some productive, positive activities,” said Linda Flowers, president of NAACP Carbondale branch.

Mentors will be on site every Friday, and Flowers believes all the factors in play will help those in need.

“I see this as being proactive situation where we’re being preventative rather than waiting for kids fail,” said Flowers.

According to Lee, mentors from multiple professional fields will be on site on Friday evenings.

“We wanted to involve men of distinction, men that have been successful in their particular field. And we wanted to make sure we found as many people as the kids could identify with and listen to in a very safe way. The mentors are here to help encourage and empower them to make healthier decisions,” said Lee.

Those who are wanting to volunteer can reach out to Aaron Lee at 618-203-1442.

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