Committed to Influencing Today's Youth | Community Spirit
By Marla Miller
This story originally ran in the Grand Rapids Urban Innovation Exchange
With the mission to restore and refocus at-risk youth, Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports uses sports and education as a vehicle to affect change, keeping inner-city youth off the streets and engaged in positive activities.
The organization, co-founded in 2008 by Chris Sain, Jr. and his brother, Preston, focuses on building relationships, character and work ethic. C.I.T.Y. is an acronym for Committed to Influencing Today’s Youth.
Volunteers who grew up with the brothers and came from the same neighborhood teach life skills, physical fitness, spiritual development and the importance of giving back to the community.
“Sports are the hook to put positive black males in front of them,” Sain, Jr. said. “It’s more about relationships. We give out 500 turkeys the week before Thanksgiving. We teach them you don’t have to have a million dollars to be a blessing.”
The organization reaches at least 2,000 people annually between sports camps and community events, Sain, Jr. said. In May, the organization awards a $500 scholarship to a high school senior.
Its Basketball and Leadership Academy provides monthly year round basketball skills training for girls and boys. It is designed to instill discipline, mental toughness, and the qualities needed to be successful in school and in life.
“The kids need to see you, they need to get to know their heroes here,” Sain, Jr. said. “I am the one that is going to come and take them to McDonald’s, not someone on TV.”
In June, Grand C.I.T.Y. hosts the annual Father-Son 5K on Father’s Day weekend and summer football camps with hometown professional athletes in attendance.
“We have a lot of absent fathers,” Sain, Jr. said. “Whether they’re your sons or not, we encourage men to step up and be present, to walk with them, and talk with them.”
As CEO, Sain, Jr.’s work with Grand C.I.T.Y. is all voluntary, and he makes it a point to attend every Grand C.I.T.Y. event. He also stays busy securing donations and building relationships in the community.
Sain, Jr. was recently appointed third vice president for Grand Rapids’ NAACP chapter, said Cle Jackson, Senior community liaison for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a sponsor of Grand C.I.T.Y.’s Father-Son 5K Walk and the October Got Faith 5K Breast Cancer Awareness Walk gotfaith5kwalk.org as an outreach, with the goal of improving health outcomes, Jackson said.
“It’s very admirable that he’s decided to voluntarily engage in this type of work around youth and utilizing his experience as an athlete, especially when it comes to discipline and fortitude in order to live a healthier lifestyle,” Jackson said. “It’s not easy work. It’s tough work, especially as a grassroots nonprofit, getting the community to buy into your message and vision.”