‘Curbside Surprise’

From left are Linda Toy, Boys & Girls Club MVSU unit director; Keelan Wright, Academy Sports + Outdoors store director; Carolyn Washington, parent; Deara People, student; Jamareia Blackmon, store associate; Jullissa Washington and Ciara Washington, both students; Renia Edwards, MVSU Athletics Sr. Associate AD/SWA; Lila Grooms, MVSU Athletics assistant AD academic services.

Mississippi Valley State University Athletics partnered with Academy Sports + Outdoors to create a “Curbside Surprise” for the Boys & Girls Club MVSU unit by donating $1,500 to the organization.

In December, representatives from both organizations, along with Dr. Mary Crump from the MVSU Jackson-Hinds Alumni Chapter, joined Academy’s store director, Keelan Wright, and staff for an afternoon filled with excitement for the group.

“Mississippi Valley State University is a proud member of the Itta Bena community, and we thought this would be an awesome surprise to present this gift to our local Boys and Girls Club,” said Dianthia Ford-Kee, director of athletics. “We are honored to partner with the Academy Sports + Outdoors to support our area youth and bring good cheer to such a deserving group. We would like to thank Academy Sports + Outdoors for their commitment to the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Valley.”

Originally, the Boys & Girls Club was given $1,000 to select for its wishlist online for the special day, but upon delivery of the items, Wright surprised the group with an additional $500 gift card.

“I was too excited; I couldn’t think. I finally said to myself don’t cry because I have some of my teens here,” said the unit’s director, Linda Toy. “It definitely came at a much-needed time. I am grateful and appreciative. I can’t stress enough the affect that the money will have on the club.”

The MVSU unit has served hundreds of Leflore County’s youth since its inception. It is a great example of a unit operating in “the Boys & Girls Clubs’ way.” Club members participate in the five core program areas, beginning each day by reciting the club’s Code in Assembly and moving into “Snacks and Power Hour” before breaking off into various SMART Kids programs, Money Matters and sponsor other programs such as Cal Ripken’s Badges for Baseball and the Special Olympics of Mississippi.

Carolyn Washington, mother of club members Ciara and Jullissa Washington, said, “We had the best experience today at Academy. The customer service was awesome even before the employees knew who we were or why we were there. ... On a scale of one to 10, I give them a 20. The best experience I’ve had in a long time.”

The club members also say they had a great time.

“My experience today was awesome. It was like being in a candy store and trying to make up your mind,” said member Deara People. “My most favorite experience was picking out games for the club, and the manager said, ‘Get it; I know you will enjoy it,’ and we can’t wait to tell the other members about our experience and the new fun games we have.”

Jullissa Washington said, “Today was an excellent day for me. I had fun walking through the store picking out stuff I will be using when I go back to the club.”

“Today was an exciting day for me to walk through the store to help pick out item that are very much needed at the boys and girls club. I can’t wait until we go back, so we can use them,” stated Ciara Washington

Academy Sports + Outdoors is a full-line sporting goods and outdoor recreation retailers.

The partnership between the retailer and the Southwestern Athletic Conference focuses on establishing meaningful community initiatives within the SWAC footprint. These initiatives will look to activate and amplify grassroots efforts, such as youth outreach and mentoring programs that is inclusive of student-athletes and administrators from across the conference.

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