Local athletic program sets example for cleanup initiative
The Lehigh Acres Blue Devils wrapped up 2018 by coming out to show their community support via a student-athlete driven clean-up effort.
It was the first month of the organization’s LBD Cares program, where the basketball team members worked to clean up local parks in the Lehigh Acres community.
The first park chosen was Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres, because it was the original home of the team.
“Veterans Park was where this organization got its start and we really wanted the kids to learn how to be a community leader and take some initiative in making it a better place. We used to practice at Veterans, so we wanted to give back and help keep it clean. We want these boys to be prepared to become men,” said Program Director and Coach Quran Pettyjohn.
According to Pettyjohn, the clean-up effort is also a way the young athletes could show pride in their community.
“Lehigh Acres’ reputation has received some negativity. We wanted to show that there are some great programs and people out here doing good things,” said Pettyjohn.
The organization is currently in its fourth year and going strong. All athletes must meet certain criteria since it’s a college prep organization.
“Our program is very competitive. We teach each athlete how to be successful both mentally and physically. All our kids must maintain a 3.0 GPA to be in the program. If they are having some difficulties, we find tutoring to help get their GPA’s up,” Pettyjohn said.
The program currently offers only basketball, but other sports will be added in the future.
“People are starting to get to know our organization and we have expanded to now offer high school basketball. We want to grow and offer other sports in the future,” Pettyjohn said.
Before starting the Lehigh Acres Blue Devil program, Pettyjohn played both high school basketball and All Army Basketball.
“I use to work for IHeart Radio prior to deciding to put my time into creating this athletic program. I have a son who also plays basketball. He is now 11, but I realized early on the importance of giving these kids a good foundation. It keeps them off the street and out of trouble,” said Pettyjohn.
Currently, Pettyjohn is a staff member at Oak Hammock Middle School, where he lends his free time coaching basketball as well.
“People are surprised when they find out that I do all this for free. I just really love to be part of helping to build life skills that these kids will need later in life,” said Pettyjohn. “Currently we have 48 kids in our program. We plan to add a high school program in February.”
Another benefit for the student-athletes is the ability to build college credits for participating in the clean-ups.
“Every month we will focus on a different park in Lehigh or a local event. Williams and Buckingham Park are coming up next,” said Pettyjohn. “Kids who are interested can visit the website to find more information on registration.”
Lehigh Blue Devils is a non-profit organization that provides youth programs for boys and girls of all skill levels from ages 8 to 18 who reside within the greater Lehigh Acres area and the Lee County School District.
Each Lehigh Blue Devils Basketball team will have two scheduled practices a week, Monday and Thursday. Practice times are 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. All practices will be held at Oak Hammock Middle school.
For more information on Lehigh Acres Blue Devil’s program visit their website at www.lehighbluedevils.com