Lynne Mowbray | Gary Martin has been a volunteer at Grafton’s Midnight Basketball for the last two and a half years. Gary, who is now the Community Chair for Grafton’s Midnight Basketball spoke recently at the Grafton Chamber of Commerce breakfast, about the positive impact that Midnight Basketball, is having on our youth. “I came to know about Midnight Basketball, when I was a member of a committee of local service representatives and community members which was put together to find a way forward in supporting young people in the Clarence Valley, Gary said. “This group later became the Our Healthy Clarence steering committee,” he said. Gary said that he had worked as a volunteer with Lifeline for six years and had spent a lot of time working to support people in crisis and preventing suicide. “I had come to know that early intervention is the most successful answer for this and we need to help people to reach out,” Gary said. “But for people to reach out, they need to feel safe to do so, otherwise they won’t. “From the first night of volunteering I could see that this program is the complete package for young people, to promote a healthy atmosphere that can save lives through early intervention techniques. “Midnight Basketball gives young people a fun place to go that is safe. It also provides healthy food, plenty of water and exercise, which is so important for maintaining good mental health,” he said. Gary said that throughout the night, players take turns on the court and in between games those not on the court, take part in life skills workshops. “We select workshops that will help the players gain skills to help them in the future,” said Gary. “Local services that have done workshops with us are Coffs / Clarence Police, ETC employment, Commonwealth Bank, Solid Mob, Social Futures, Headspace, Lifeline and many more. “The life-skills workshops help them to learn more about looking after themselves and develop skills. “We have a volunteer base which includes youth workers who the young people can open up to at anytime during the tournament, to receive professional support. “During my time as a volunteer I have found the tournament to be an amazing program which really helps the young people’s resilience and sense of community. “We run the program twice a year and each program runs for eight weeks every Friday night. “Players are bussed from their homes to the Grafton Sports Centre, where they remain until the end of the evening, when they are taken back home by the bus. The bus driver makes sure that each young person is safely inside before leaving them. “Through the Midnight Basketball program, these young people are gaining valuable life-skills, making new friends and learning the value of teamwork,” he said. Some of the positive comments which have been made by these young people involved in the program show the positive impact that Midnight Basketball is having on our youth: • I got (new) friends and it helped me (to) open up more. • I get to catch up with my mates from other schools • I’m allowed to go because it’s safe and you can’t leave and the bus drops me home. • (It’s) an opportunity to do something on a Friday night that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol. • (I can) learn about local services (that) we can access. Player registration opened last Friday for the next tournament (tournament 11) which will start on October 26. Each tournament runs for 8 weeks – for more information, tournament dates or to register as a volunteer or player; go to their website: www.midnightbasketball.org.au/Grafton Midnight Basketball needs your support. They are in need of funding and volunteer’s to keep this valuable program running. At the moment they can only afford to take 60 young people per tournament (playing on two courts). They have 40 young people on the waiting list, but don’t have the money to take on anymore. What can you do to help support this fantastic program?