By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MILLVILLE â€“ There was flag football, music, food and inspiring speeches at Lakeside Middle School on Saturday, but Coach J.T. Burks hopes it will lead to young people making smarter decisions drugs and gun violence.
More than 400 joined Burks, founded of the nonprofit Positive Vibes Community Group, for his fifth annual “Players vs. Drugs, Guns and Gangs.” Burks’ effort has grown every year since the beginning.
Burks grew up here and has a burning passion to make things better for the children and young people in the area. While the flag football matchup between Millville and Vineland highlighted the day, Burk said the event was carried in several phases.
“We had games, face painting, bouncy houses, music, performances, speakers, honorees, poster contest, vendors and food,” Burks told Front Runner New Jersey about the event. “The game was great, Vineland won.
“I hope everyone continue to understand it takes us all to end gun violence, stop the drug epidemic and keep our kids out of gangs. Players Vs. Drugs Guns and Gangs is actually a three-part event,” he said.
Burks said there was a “meet-and-greet” with both teams and run a practice game so kids could get familiar with the rules. On Friday, the young people are treated to a mentoring dinner with both teams and talks about making the right choices. Then it all comes together Saturday with the game.
Burks and Positive Vibes also recognized community leaders at the flag football event, like Tahira Walker of group Blooming Roses, Marty Brown of Iron Sharpeneth Iron, and Cape May-Cumberland County Young Democrats founder Alexander Bland.
The mission of Blooming Roses is to empower youth, transitioning girls from girls to women. The nonprofit plans to promote positivity while building strong trusting relationships and teaching life skills in youth through mentoring.
Iron Sharpeneth Iron has sponsored coaching and career center, offers scholarships. It also offers support group, job training, life skills training and community support.
Bland, a Millville H.S. graduate, served as president of the Cape May County branch NAACP president before founding the Cape May-Cumberland County Young Democrats. He has been active throughout South Jersey in getting minorities involved in the political system.
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