Originally posted FloridaToday.com by Wayne T. Price
Photo: Provided by Leah Turner
COCOA BEACH – For Maryland's Finest, a group of pre-teens in Brevard County for an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament this week, the focus has been more than just scoring baskets on the court.
It has also been about community service, specifically learning about the importance of keeping beaches clean.
The parents of Maryland's Finest arranged for the AAU squad to spend some time this week learning about the nonprofit Keep Brevard Beautiful and also picking up trash. Including players, parents and siblings, about 30 people from the Washington, D.C. metro area were picking up cigarette butts, wrappers, plastic caps and other refuse.
"The boys started turning it into a competition and it was fun to watch," said Leah Turner, mother of 11-year-old Jared Turner, a small forward for Maryland's Finest.
Leah Turner said the parents had always talked about inserting some sort of community service element into out-of-town tournaments to stress to the players that it's not only about winning games, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants when traveling. It's also about giving back to a host community.
"This time we finally executed the plan," Turner said.
The parents ran their idea past AAU, and others, and eventually were put in contact with Keep Brevard Beautiful by Connie Alden, sports director for Space Coast Sports Promotions, which is hosting the AAU tournament in Brevard. Alden can't recall another AAU sports team adding a community service element to their trip to Brevard, and she thinks it might catch on with others.
"I'm hoping that it does,"Alden said. "It's a nice thing to do and actually built into this was a 45-minute educational component by Keep Brevard Beautiful. They learned about human impact on the beaches, sea turtle nesting, the environment and a lot more. They got a lot out of it."
Bryan Bobbitt, Keep Brevard Beautiful programs and events coordinator, appreciated the effort by the players, and the initiative by the parents to do a clean-up project with organization.
"And the fact that it's not even their home state is awesome," Bobbitt said.
And there is some good news for Maryland's Finest. On Wednesday they defeatedTeam United of North Carolina 51-46 in overtime. They are playing again at 2:20 p.m. Thursday at Viera High School.
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