Meaghan Kelly is someone you should know. Meaghan is the daughter of Judge Carol Kelly who serves our juvenile population in the North Lawndale Community. We hear so much about violence going on in our world on a daily basis that we forget about the good things happening in the neighborhood. So I just wanted to share this story with you. This is how Hoop Stars began:

Meaghan was watching Oprah and was intrigued with a show about children starting their own charities. At 12, she took money from her own account, sold raffle tickets and, with the $1,500 she raised, began her own program.

Judge Kelly, who is invested in youth in the North Lawndale community, knew the connections to make for her energetic daughter. A meeting was arranged by M/M Jenkins with Rev. James Brooks and Coach Steven Space. They had the money, now they needed the children. Where would they get the children? They would recruit from BBR Youth Center, which no longer exists in North Lawndale.

Meaghan played basketball in elementary school. It was only natural for Hoop Stars to be a basketball program for boys and girls in North Lawndale. The program began in 2000 for grades 3-8. Hoop Stars is associated with Westside Association for Community Action. In the summer, the children go for a full week to Grace Lutheran Church and School in River Forest for basketball, baseball and other sports. Meaghan plays basketball and the other sports right along with the children. Meaghan is a pretty good basketball player.

Grace Lutheran provides bus service for the students (at no charge) to and from North Lawndale, daily hot lunches and a T-shirt. The last day is the back-to-school rally with a DJ, food, games, face painting, the Jesse White Tumblers, the best school supplies in the world on the picnic grounds of the juvenile center, and lots of fun! All the parole officers from Judge Kelly’s courtroom were there making sure all the children had a great day. Remember, the entire program was free!

Thank you so much, Meaghan, for starting Hoop Stars.

Thank you, Coach Space, for working diligently with the program throughout the school year at Dvorak Elementary School. Coach Space is a no nonsense coach who makes sure the students are on task at all times with the numerous basketball drills, exercises and tournaments.

Thank you, Rev. Brooks. He is always there in River Forest, working with the students and offering words of encouragement on a daily basis before the children begin to play.

Hoop Stars are taught anti-violence and anti-gangs. They don’t have to belong to a gang. Judge Kelly and her beautiful daughter, Meaghan (who will celebrate her 21st birthday on Aug. 20), want children to know that people do care about them. Meaghan will be a senior at Regis University in Denver, where she is studying to be an educator.

She is someone you should know. She has been doing something good in the hood for nine years.

Demetrice Griffin is a member of the Westside NAACP.