Tennis Great Zina Garrison and Commissioner Ellis Encourage Youth at Street Olympics Final Event to Keep Late Commissioner Lee’s Tradition Alive

Style Magazine Newswire | 8/7/2019, 11:56 a.m.

Tennis great Zina Garrison joined Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis on Friday, Aug. 2 to offer words of encouragement to about 2,500 Houston-area youth who competed for medals at the 33rd annual Harris County Street Olympics Final Event at NRG Arena.

Carrying on the tradition started by the late Commissioner El Franco Lee, Garrison, a former Olympian, and Commissioner Ellis led the Parade of Champions, which featured marching bands from Westbury High School and Austin High School followed by athletes from participating youth agencies walking behind homemade banners representing their youth centers.

“We want to continue following the footsteps of Commissioner Lee, who had a vision more than 30 years ago to develop a summer program that provides a safe and enriching experience for youth,” Ellis said. “When I look at these young children today, I know there’s even more of a need now than it was in 1986. So, my dear friend, we will continue your model of using sports as a way to teach youth about the game of life.”

The daylong Final Event, which marked the end of the eight-weeklong Summer Games, included the Bright Futures Fair and competition in events such as kickball, free throw, foot races, spelling bee, chess and art. The top-three finishers in each age group received gold, silver and bronze medals that were awarded on an Olympic-style podium.

Demetreck Hayes, 7, of Pleasantville Park, who won the gold in the free throw contest in his age category, said he worked hard throughout the summer to finish on top. “I practice every day on my dribbling, shooting and free throws,” he said.

Daveon Jones, 13, who competed for Lincoln Park Community Center in the 3-point shootout, said he has participated in Street Olympics since he was 8 years old.

“It was great,” Daveon said. “It’s good to meet other friends. I look forward to coming here for the competition and great experience.”

Throughout the summer, about 3,000 athletes at 120 participating agencies’ sites competed to represent their youth centers at the Final Event. The free Summer Games, one of the major components of the nonprofit Street Olympics, involved nearly two months of recreational and educational activities.

The Summer Games and other year-round programs support the Street Olympics mission to implement and sustain programs that provide training, support and resources that lead to healthy and productive lives for youth. Serving approximately 3,000 children and teens, Street Olympics summer programming fulfils a critical need in Houston. Studies have shown that without access to affordable, high-quality summer programming, working families lack safe and enriching places for their children to attend while parents are at work.

Another Summer Games program is 3-on-3 Basketball. For five weeks, more than 500 boys and girls – ages 7 to 17 – at neighborhood youth agencies competed in 3-on-3 Basketball. On July 17 and 18 at the City of Houston’s Fonde Recreation Center, about 300 players vied for trophies in the 3-on-3 Championship Tournament. Through practice and competition, the youth developed their confidence and leadership skills, which will serve them well both on and off the court.