The REAL Men of Anniston, a community group of 13 men, sponsored a series of weekend events starting in May and continuing through Sunday to help keep area students out of trouble and having fun throughout the summer.
The men started out planning one picnic a couple of weeks before Mother’s Day. But it was such a success, they continued having the Sunday events all summer.
“Once we did it that first time, it just came off like a light bulb,” said Vince Williams, one of the men who organized the Sunday activities. “You see the smiles on their faces and say, ‘We should do this next week.’ And then next week came and, ‘We should do this until they get out of school.’”
And so a picnic turned into a summer of Sunday soccer, basketball, baseball and flag football tournaments, cookouts, water-sliding and a visit from the Fire Department.
Prince Williams, 13, said he enjoyed the sports and the Sunday activities gave him something to do over the summer.
“It’s fun to me,” he said. “It’s giving me something better to do instead of watching how people be out here acting fools.”
Quaitavious Keith, 10, who had only just started coming to the picnics a couple of weeks ago, said he heard about them from his uncle. As he sat to get his haircut, he said the baseball tournaments were his favorite activity.
The Anniston Parks and Recreation Department provided the sports equipment and gave the men a permit to use the parks, Vince Williams said. The food was provided by REAL Men. With dozens of children attending the Sunday sessions, the food bill was high, about $180 per week, said Skayia Parker, another REAL Men member.
“We just pooled our money,” said Victor Williams, one of the founding members of REAL Men.
But the sessions weren’t just about having a good time, Parker said. The men were there to set an example to teach the children about character and honor and how to live a good life, he said.
“It’s a godly mission that we’re on,” said Vince Williams, a father of 10. “It’s all about giving them a positive direction.”
The summer activities were about building relationships and letting the children know that the men are there for them, Parker said.
The men did that by having the cookouts and the social activities; but they also took the kids to church and studied the Bible with them, Williams said.
Triplett, who hosted the hair-cutting session at her apartment in Constantine Homes, said the effort was important to help the children grow to be participating members of the community.
Kids will always have fun, she said, but they aren’t always learning positive lessons.
“We’ve got a lot of potential down here with the kids,” Parker said. “We’re just trying to inspire them.”
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.