If the clown, the magician, and the motorcycles are any indication of what New Haven residents can expect from the youth center Jayden’s House Founder Dawn Reed is planning to build in the city, she won’t have any trouble drawing interest.
Those things seem less likely, but the intended effect-getting kids engaged-will be certainly present in some form, Reed says.
And on Sunday afternoon, the carnival-style attractions had drawn several hundred kids to the green for a day of exercise, education, and fun. This was Care for Kids Youth Day, an event that was co-sponsored by the window safety-oriented Jayden’s House and Stars in the Making, a mentoring program for girls.
The participants ate, played games-including kickball, a sack race, and touch football-and listened to an event-long soundtrack from the local 94.3 WYBC radio station.
“This event is an example of what we’re trying to do [within a community house],” said WYNB General Manager and radio personality Juan Castillo. “That’s what it’s all about-making a difference in the community.”
For Reed and the events other organizers, that difference means more than just a day of recreation and free food-they hope to provide New Haven’s youth with “positive” and “productive” outlets that keep them out of trouble, as well as an environment of support, they say.
“People talk about the crime in New Haven,” Castillo said. “People outside of New Haven think we’re doing nothing about it. The way you do something is you get to the young people. You change generations.”
Douglas Wardlaw, Vice President of New Haven Firebirds Society, echoed this sentiment. He and firefighters from the New Haven Fire Department were on hand, and the fire engines they brought along with them were a huge draw.
In the spirit of Reed’s mantra of youth empowerment, Wardlaw said that he was hoping to turn kids onto firefighting as a potential career path.
“Every kid loves a fire engine,” Wardlaw said. “We’re trying to keep them positive when it comes to civil service. Hopefully, they can check out the engines and realize that they can be fire fighters.”
Fire Department Chief Allyn Wright filled in for Toni Harp in cutting the ribbon to kickoff the event.
“I try to make it so we’re mentors,” Wright said. “We, as firefighters, try to instill in them [kids] the importance of education.”
That’s an emphasis that has been voiced by Reed when it comes to laying the plans for the youth center, which she wants to equip with tutoring services, arts and crafts, and a comprehensive resource center for families in need. She hopes to set it up in a neighborhood where she feels the need is the greatest, and is working on recruiting sponsors and collecting donations.