Boys & Girls Club

Sheneka Love, director of the Jacksonville Boys & Girls Club takes a selfie with her kids during the annual Boys & Girls Club of East Central Alabama, Kid's Day 2018 at South Highland Community Center in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Jataylor Zachery bounced up and down, eager to splash in the nearby pool behind the South Highland Community Center in Anniston on Friday.

The 7-year-old from Jacksonville had waited weeks to swim and play games with friends as part of the area Boys and Girls Clubs’ final big event before the new school year starts.

And yet the event wasn’t the highlight of Zachery’s summer with the club.

“My favorite thing is free play,” Zachery said, referring to when children get to pick what games they can play while at the club.

Zachery was one of more than 300 children from three counties who came to the Boys and Girls ClubS of East Central Alabama’s annual back to school bash. The event gave the children one more blast of excitement for the summer, but also free supplies to start their new school year.

“What we try to do is get all the play out of their system,” Johnny Byrd, chief professional officer of the area Boys and Girls Clubs said as children quickly walked past him in a line to the pool. “We want to get them exhausted so they can then focus and be ready for school.”

Boys and Girls Clubs is a nationwide organization that provides educational and recreational services to mainly underserved children in the community.

Groups of children from clubs in Calhoun, Randolph and Talladega counties all rotated through the different activities available at the event. Besides swimming, kids could play basketball, jump in two bouncy castles or play carnival games.

Also, along with food, each child received a backpack filled with necessary school supplies and a pair of new shoes and socks, all of which was free and donated by sponsors and nonprofits.  

“One of the great things about this is the community makes it happen ... there’s so many who donate and make this happen,” Byrd said.

Yolanda Lee, site director for the club in Roanoke, said her kids look forward to the big summer bash every year.

“They’re always excited for this final program,” Byrd said.

Aaliyah McKissic, 15, who has been a Boys and Girls Clubs member for five years, served as a junior staffer at the Roanoke site this year and helped oversee at the kids at the Friday event.

“I like it because I get to help younger kids learn new things,” McKissic said of working with the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Jaden Jones, 13, said she’s liked the Club in Roanoke for years because of the camaraderie.

“I like how some people act and are all friends to each other, and we get to do arts and crafts,” Jones said.

Sheneka Love said this was her first year as site director for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Jacksonville. Love said she recently graduated from Jacksonville State University with a recreation degree and decided to give the Boys and Girls Clubs summer program a shot.

“I’ve loved it so far,” she said as she watched her kids splash in the pool. “I just like being able to help the kids and do things with them for the summer.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.