Lesia Young looked over to see the kids running in the sun — and as she watched, she might as well have seen growth happening out there, in every sprint, every jump and every step.
The annual Youth in the Park event brought together dozens of community kids again on Saturday at Woodson Park, as part of the ongoing Juneteenth Celebration this weekend in Odessa.
“It’s going great,” Young said with a smile, as the children ran through track and field races in the park.
Basketball games, dancing, face painting and balloons were also all part of the youth activities, which kicked off the second day of the Black Cultural Council of Odessa’s annual holiday celebration.
The celebration continues with events today and Tuesday at Woodson Park.
Saturday’s event marked the seventh year organizing Youth in the Park for Young, a BCCO board member, who said the event was growing in participation, and featured track and field activities for the first time this year.
Young said she and organizers relished the chance to not only get the kids together to play out in the sun, but also to surround them with volunteers who can act as positive role models.
Officials from Odessa Fire and Rescue, the Ector County Sheriff’s Office and the Odessa Police Department made their way to event, along with the various volunteers from different business and backgrounds across Odessa who were helping out.
“We do this because we know they’re our future, and we want to teach them good values,” Young said of the children. “If they can see older women, men participating and helping, that is the drive that we want to leave with them.”
OFR firefighters gave kids the tour of a truck Saturday, before joining them out in the park to watch them race during the track and field activities.
“It’s always fun. Kids love firetrucks. It’s always fun to come show them,” said OFR captain Darren Wilkerson.
“Thanks for being our role models,” Young waved to Wilkerson and the others from OFR as she passed by them between events later in the park.
Organizers were sure to introduce younger volunteers to the children, too, to try to set a good example.
“A lot of these kids, they don’t have, really, somebody to be a role model in their lives,” said Khalil Cavil, a Permian graduate who studied at Odessa College and is on his way to continue his education at Dallas Baptist. He spoke with the kids gathered together Saturday.
“Just to impact them in a way to say, ‘You can be something,’” he continued.
“‘You have a purpose, to be in the fire department; to be in the sheriff’s office; to be within your community.’ That’s why I volunteer, just to impact and to be involved.”
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 annually, to mark the day in 1865 that slow-moving news of the Confederacy’s surrender finally reached Texas, marking the abolition of slavery in the state.
The BCCO’s celebration continues today with afternoon events in the auditorium at Blackshear, and evening concerts at Woodson Park.
Young and other organizers will bring kids together for another Youth in the Park event Tuesday, for an event featuring hula hoop, dance, soccer, football and more fun — and not without volunteers and role models trying to leave a positive impression.
“We’ve got all these people pulling together to change these young people’s lives,” Young said. “That’s where we’re headed.”
- 1 p.m., 35 and older legends basketball tournament, Woodson Boys and Girls Club
- 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sewell Gospel Celebration, at Blackshear Auditorium
- 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Clean Comedy Clinic Inc., at Blackshear Auditorium
- 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., “Blues” by DJ Blue Boy and DJ B. Reed, at Woodson Park main stage
- 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., performances by local rappers, at Woodson Park main stage
- 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., youth dance, Woodson Park south end
- 9 a.m. to noon, Youth in the Park, Woodson Park
- Noon to 1:30 p.m., annual Juneteenth Picnic, Woodson Park
- Noon to 4 p.m., health fair, Woodson Park
- 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Shout Cheerleading, Woodson Park main stage
- 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., Mark Lyon’s True to Soul Band, Woodson Park main stage