On Friday, June 14th, the city of Camden and the Sixers Youth Foundation formally opened a new Learn and Play center. Complete with a new modern computer lab, lounge, and gymnasium, the center is aimed at area youth. The ceremony was joyous and displayed the deepening strength of the community partnership between the team and its region.
Philadelphia 76ers President Chris Heck was all smiles as he presented the mission statement. He expressed his organization’s continued commitment to the community of Camden. The city is home to the Sixers’ corporate offices and basketball operations practice facility. Heck pointed out Philadelphia 76ers legend World B. Free, a two time NBA All-Star, as a Camden resident and ambassador between the team and the area. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, World held a basketball clinic for youth on the new gymnasium floor.
Money Well Spent
In many ways, this event bookends the Sixers Youth Celebrity Gala which was held in March and helped raise funds for these kinds of investments in community youth. The Gala, attended by Sixers legends such as Allen Iverson and Julius Erving, featured legendary artist Wyclef Jean. Both the Gala and the silent auction hit record-setting numbers this year. The Gala raised more than $1 million with the silent auction contributing $211K of that.
Philadelphia 76ers Executive Director of Social Responsibility Amy Hever, who oversees the program, was pleased with the end product of the project. It will provide a place for children to come after school to be active both physically in the gleaming new gymnasium or employ and challenge their intellects in the computer workspace.
At the Sixers, everything we do is rooted in our values. Whether it’s the professional athletes on the court or the staff who drive our business off the court, our values guide the way we cultivate relationships with our fans, our partners, our communities, and each other.
Camden Mayor Francisco “Frank” Moran and Director of Human Services Carmen Rodriguez spoke at length to the crowd about the vital importance of places like this for children. The investment in youth community centers lays a foundation for long term sustainable progress for a city which has fought back from periods of economic hardship in past decades. That progress, which began on the riverfront with the aquarium and BB&T center, is now advancing deeper into the community with the help of the Sixers and Harris Blitzer group. Both Moran and Rodriguez expressed gratitude to the Sixers for their partnership in these endeavors.
The Sixers Dunk Squad, dance team, and mascot Franklin provided early entertainment to hype up the crowd of more than 100. But perhaps the biggest cheer of the day was after the following declaration by broadcasting legend Marc Zumoff.
“The Sixers have arranged it so none of you will have homework until September!”
But when September arrives and summer ends, the area youth will have a place to knock out their homework, catch a sweat, get up some jumpers, and explore technology in style. The work and play center is located at the Jackie Robinson Community Center, 1000 N 6th Street, Camden, NJ 08102