By Ed Brock
There are a few things missing from today's youth sports teams that Lorenzo Faust and his sister Orrie Johnson want to reestablish.
Things like fellowship, fun, good sportsmanship and affordability are what Faust and Johnson's program "Positive Kids" is all about.
"Youth sports have gotten away from that," Faust said.
Faust, 41, lives in McDonough and works for Clayton County Refuse Control. Johnson lives in Jonesboro and the offices of Positive Kids, a registered not-for-profit organization, are in East Point. During the summer, around 50 youths participate in the program, participating in basketball, softball, dancing and other activities.
They hope to have a football team sometime soon, Faust said, and are also expanding into tutoring and computer classes.
The idea began in 2000 when Johnson was operating a daycare center by the same name.
"I dealt with a lot of low income families so I wanted to help single parents get affordable day care," Johnson said.
Then in the summer they began having sports camps.
"We were bringing kickball back," Johnson said. "We started having little tournaments with other daycare centers."
Eventually Johnson, who describes herself as an outdoors person, realized that she could do more with the older children, like taking them to movies and on field trips.
"I was doing what I loved to do and what they loved to do," Johnson said. "I still love what I do because I know I'm helping a lot of kids."
That same desire to help young people, most of whom are considered "at risk children" from poor, often single-parent households, is what encourage Faust to get involved in the program.
"When you have kids who come out and want to participate in sports, a lot of times they can't afford it," Faust said. "We make up for the difference (through donations from sponsors) so the kids won't be left out."
The donations are used to pay for uniforms and fees to participate in events like the Youth Basketball of America Tournament in Cobb County in which they recently played. In fact they're looking for more sponsors to help fund another tournament coming up in May and, eventually, a new van.
But providing religious fellowship for the young athletes is just as important to Faust and Johnson as giving them a chance to play.
"We have come to find out that most of the kids are filled with so much anger because all they want is someone to show them love," Faust said.
For the past four months that 17-year-old Joseph Ayers of Jonesboro has been playing basketball on the Positive Kids team he's seen a difference between them and other sports programs.
"The coaches talk really nice to you and they treat you really well," Ayers said. "The coaches are more worried about you and how you are doing ? They're more worried about how we're growing as individuals."
Positive Kids also keeps the youths off the streets and out of trouble, Faust said, and can help teach them discipline and pride.
"But all that has to start from you and me," Faust said. "If you were taught to be mean and hateful, when you lose there's nothing to smile about."
Anyone interested in donating to Positive Kids or volunteering their time or enrolling their child in the program can call (404) 763-9224 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.