Youngster Shares Concerns About Boys And Girls Club

Ashton Gage speaks to the Gulfport City Council.
Ashton Gage speaks to the Gulfport City Council.

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Where Ashton Gage once found homework help and after school activities, he now sees neglect. The former site of the Forest Avenue Boys and Girls Club is now a concrete slab, surrounded by dilapidated playground equipment.

"Honestly, I had just started attending the club before the storm, but I was really looking forward to doing things and spending time with the other kids in the neighborhood," Gage told the Gulfport City Council this week.

Cracked concrete, worn playground equipment and a lone basketball hoop are all that remain at the site of the once busy Forest Heights Boys and Girls Club.

Ashton urged city leaders to do what they can to restore and rebuild.

"The club gives us kids something to do besides sitting at home with nothing to do and getting into trouble like hanging with the wrong crowd," the nine-year-old told city leaders.

"The Boys and Girls Clubs is definitely committed to the North Gulfport area and the Forest Heights subdivision," said Executive Director Sam Burke.

He says the Boys and Girls Clubs will be building four new facilities across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including Forest Heights.

"We are anxious to get a brand new building up and running so that we can have more kids and provide more services to families in that community."

Ashton Gage and his friends can not only expect a new Boys and Girls Clubs to be built at the site by the summer of next year, they can look forward to it being a much improved, much larger facility than the one that was there before Katrina.

"We're going to be building something around 18,000 square feet, with an indoor gym, program space for art and music. And education computer lab," says Burke.

One determined nine-year-old will no doubt be happy to hear the news, knowing his once special place has not been forgotten.