CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – Just in time for summer, a brand new multi-million dollar youth center opened its doors on the corner of Laramie and Kinzie on Chicago’s West Side Thursday.
In between abandoned buildings in the heart of Austin, you can now find the $6-million dollar gem By the Hand Club for Kids.
“They made all the kids happy and it’s a safe place,” said 9-year-old Jaquan Owens.
“Anything that By the Hand has is from our donors and that’s why we thank them and we love them and why we write cards and letters just to say thank you for giving us hope,” said 16-year-old Ariel Lee in an interview with Fox 32’s Tisha Lewis.
The group partners with NBA super star and Chicago native Dwyane Wade to provide students with a safe place to learn.
“I think he’s awesome. I actually did get a chance to meet him because I spoke at the Spring Benefit and so he came to our practice and he actually talked, came by and you got to really know who he was and not just oh he plays basketball,” said Lee.
The ribbon cutting for the 26,000 square foot facility was a neighborhood event. It’s undoubtedly a rare investment in a community that needs it the most, just ask Lee.
“Some of the kids who are dying are really young and they can be in programs like this instead of being outside or having to go to violence to free themselves,” said Lee.
Free to play basketball, board games and get moving toward a brighter future.
“There’s a lot of people who say I can’t do nothing but I know I can and By the Hand they help me, they tell me that I can go all the way,” said Marcelis Townsen, 15 years old.
The organization provides year-round homework help and reading classes to students K-12.
“I like my classroom because it’s quiet and I can do my work and get more knowledge and get more good grades,” said LaShon Stuckey, 11 years old.
“I think my favorite part is when I see the kids come into the building, their mouths drop open and their eyes immediately go up to the beautiful photographs of our kids and they just know that this building is for them,” said By the Hand Club for Kids’ Executive Director Donnita Travis.
Travis says the organization still needs more suppliesincluding: sound equipment, a sports foosball table, a pinball machine,Xbox games, DVDs and board games. If you’d like to help, visit www.bythehand.org.