DHS Celebrates the Success of Safety NETS Basketball League, an Anti-Violence Program

Over 480 young men involved in the late night sports program and violence prevention initiative

The highly-successful Safety NETS Basketball League leaps into its final championship games action tonight. Officials from Governor Quinn's administration will join athletes and community leaders to help celebrate the success of the Safety NETS Basketball League during the festivities. This year, Michael Finley of the San Antonio Spurs and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls participated in the program by sponsoring leagues from their home neighborhoods.

Over 480 young men from the Chicagoland and Springfield area participated in the Safety NETS late night basketball league, which was created in response to the overwhelming need for more community based youth programs. The league is a late-night sports and job readiness program for young men aimed at addressing the risk factors that make them vulnerable to gangs and criminal activities.

"The Championship is not only an evening of fun and sportsmanship, but it is a symbol of the impact this program can have on youth who are given a chance. We as adults need to do our part to lead our communities and youth by providing alternative activities for them, not shutting them out. Late night basketball programs have proven effective in the reduction of crime and criminal activity. Today, we have hundreds of young men involved in something productive. I am proud of the progress they've made," said Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams Ph.D.

The league's final championship games will be held tonight at 6:00 p.m. at Foscoe Park located at 1312 S. Racine. Activities begin at 6:00 p.m. and the final games will begin at 7:00 p.m. The evening will also feature slam dunk contests and three point shooting contests.

In many neighborhoods, crime and violence occur more frequently between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. As a positive alternative to crime and violence during those hours, the Safety NETS Basketball League completed its second phase by launching league sites in six high-risk communities - Englewood, Maywood, Roseland, South Shore, Lawndale and Springfield.

"I applaud Secretary Adams for her commitment to violence prevention in our communities," said Gil Walker, commissioner of the Safety NETS Basketball League. "I have worked with these young men and women for the past several months and watched a transformation take place. The Safety NETS program is designed to get young men off the streets and into the gym. Once we have them into the gym, they have an opportunity to listen to our ministry - and that is to be a good person overall."

Young men 18 through 26 years of age can participate in the league; most are unemployed, underemployed and/or disenfranchised. Players sign a contract to participate in the program and are required to attend mandatory workshops that include counseling, referrals and job readiness instruction. The league features strict rules, regulations and guidelines to ensure safety and sportsmanship among players. The Safety NETS Basketball League is comprised of four divisions with eight teams each.

IDHS offers social and recreational activities for young people through its various prevention programs. For more information on DHS services, visit www.dhs.state.il.us.

For more information or if you would like to sponsor a team contact Commissioner Gil Walker at 312-793-1547.