Knoxville youth sports program shutting down despite protests

Knoxville inner city youth sports program shutting down despite protests

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"I hate to say it, but we get the kids no body else wants," said CCYSP Board President Anita Riley. "I hate to say it, but we get the kids no body else wants," said CCYSP Board President Anita Riley.
"I just want city officials to recognize that the inner city kids are an excellent group of kids," said volunteer coach Marlond Mason. "I just want city officials to recognize that the inner city kids are an excellent group of kids," said volunteer coach Marlond Mason.
"They won't have any extra curricular activities to do," said former athlete Nysha Via Marsh. "They won't have any extra curricular activities to do," said former athlete Nysha Via Marsh.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Parents and volunteers involved with a Knoxville Parks and Recreation program are furious after city officials decided to shut down the program.

The Center City Youth Sports Program (CCYSP) began more than 30 years ago. It gives youth the opportunity to play basketball, baseball, and football at no cost.

The sports program is one of the largest in Knoxville that focuses on inner city youth.

"It's all they got. It's all they have," said CCYSP Board President Anita Riley. "I hate to say it, but we get the kids no body else wants."

Riley says she found out this week that the program would end Saturday. She says parks and recreation officials had threatened this summer to close the program down, but had given the board an opportunity to organize their program better.
     
Riley says the group has already hired a consultant to help establish the program as a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

She says she has reached out to Knoxville Parks and Recreation Director Joe Walsh, but says he has not responded to helping them.

"I don't think he fully understand the impact this program has on these kids," said Riley. "It's unfortunate."

CCYSP has about 500 kids who participate. It is the only program that is free.

Volunteers and former athletes say if the program is taken away the kids will not be able to afford other programs.

"I just want city officials to recognize that the inner city kids are an excellent group of kids," said volunteer coach Marlond Mason.

"If it's no longer, there a lot of kids -- especially where I come from, Lonsdale -- they won't have any extra curricular activities to do," said former athlete Nysha Via Marsh.

Several people said they hope city officials reverse their decision and allow the program to continue on as it has for decades. 
   
"We are restructuring our youth athletic programs to better serve Knoxville youth. This restructuring does not reduce our commitment financially or morally to disadvantaged children. In fact, our goal is to provide additional sports programming and opportunities," Parks and Recreation Director Walsh said in a written statement to 6 News.

"We are scheduling a meeting next week with CCYSP members and parents to discuss this issue," Walsh said.

Volunteers with CCYSP said they planned to be at the parks and recreation commission meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. to voice their concerns. They have already been told they are not invited to the meeting.

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