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After-school sports program looking for volunteers to help keep kids healthy and active

POSTED: February 21, 2011 1:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Professional golfer Vic Wilson speaks with students at Martin Technology Academy about the sport and a few life lessons as part of The Sandlot Aftershchool Program.

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Kim Johnson's goal for the year is simple: Continue the work she's doing, but in a bigger way.

For about a decade, Johnson has been reaching out to young people in need of support at Martin Technology Academy to keep them on the right track.

She's the founder and director of The Sandlot Afterschool and Sports Camp program.

Sandlot started as a one-week summer sports camp, but turned into a three-day-a-week program at Martin last year.

"I felt like this was something the kids need every day, instead of just a week in the summer," she said.

In the faith-based program, Johnson provides homework assistance, activities and exercise.

It's named after "The Sandlot," a film about a group of young baseball players during the summer of 1962. Johnson said the movie fit the program's theme of outdoor activity and health.

"Today, there are less sidewalks and some kids spend a lot of time in front of the TV," she said. "In the afterschool program, students run on the track each day."

Johnson hopes to extend the program's outreach to other schools, but wants to improve the program at Martin first.

She said Sandlot is in desperate need of community volunteers.

Community help could provide more support and structure to the children, she said.

"It's still a pilot program, and we're working with teachers and administrators to get this program solid to take it to every elementary school and beyond," she said.

Recently, the students met with professional golfer Vic Wilson of Flowery Branch, who taught them about the sport and shared life lessons, Johnson said.

"Both the boys and girls really enjoyed golf," she said. "We're trying to figure out with each one, what is it that will connect with them."

Martin principal Tamara Etterling said she notices the difference Sandlot has made for young people.

"She tries to find the students' interest and strengths and bring that out of them," Etterling said. "She never ceases to amaze me. Her devotion to the kids day in and day out is unbelievable."

Johnson offers the program for free and will often give students a ride home from the program to help parents. The program is supported by community donations.

Johnson said it's work she's happy to do.

"It's rewarding to know that you're helping a future generation of kids," she said.

 



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