Central City youth center gets big payday from Dick's Sporting Goods

Published: Jun. 29, 2014 at 3:27 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A youth center in Central City on the break of financial ruin, receives help from a major retailer.

On this June day, with temperatures soaring past 90 degrees, playing basketball on a blacktop is not the coolest thing but playing ball is what this group of kids loves to do, even though the court isn't in the best shape.

"A lot of scrapes and bruises but once you get past the band aids and the calluses, just keep running, that's the only thing we can do," said APEX member Darold Alexander.

They run from the crime and violence that plagues their Central City neighborhood, right into the arms of Lisa Fitzpatrick, the founder of APEX. FOX 8 first told you about Fitzpatrick and her husband Danny earlier this year. They gave up their jobs and spent their life savings to open this center.

"The story that FOX 8 did I guess a couple months ago now, really brought a community awareness of our work here," said Fitzpatrick.

It also garnered attention across the country. When APEX entered a contest sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods, company executives were impressed with what they found. Colleen Wilson, Community Relations Manager for Dick's Sporting Goods says, "They're bringing kids in from the streets that may not have another place to go and they are welcomed here and they are accepted here."

APEX did so well raising money for the contest, that executives from Dick's, flew to town with a reward and presented APEX with a check for $119,600. The money will pay for the current basketball court to be re-surfaced, leveled, painted and covered.

Fitzpatrick says in recent months, funds have been dwindling putting APEX in jeopardy. But with the donation from Dick's, the center will not only get a new basketball court, but the doors will be able to stay open six days a week. "This is life changing. It's life changing for, well, yesterday we served 120 kids all day, so it's life changing all the way around," Fitzpatrick said.

The money will also pay for new uniforms for the center's basketball team, the APEX elites, and provide for a coach to be hired. And a wall will be built, shielding the kids from the neighborhood, where just last week, a man was shot outside the gates.

Fitzpatrick says, "This is going to provide a safe haven for our children." After all, that is Lisa Fitzpatrick's life's mission.

180 teams across the country were also rewarded with donations from Dick's Sporting Goods.

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