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Basketball contest aims to ‘save youth’

The Preachers and Deacons are ready to return to the basketball court, but this time they are joining forces.

On April 29 at Ridgeland-Hardeeville High, a team of the county’s preachers and deacons, who have annually faced off against each other in basketball contests to raise money for local organizations, including this February, will oppose the Allen Busby All-Stars for a “Save Our Youth” Hoop it Up basketball game.

The event aims to raise awareness about services in the county available to youngsters and their families. The game will feature many former athletes and professionals with ties to Jasper County and the Lowcountry, including former NFL stars and cousins Michael G. Jenkins, who played for the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings, and Dedrick Allen Dodge, who won Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers (1994) and Denver Broncos (1997). His grandparents are from Gillisonville.

Jenkins, who starred at Ohio State from 2000-03, has the most receiving yards in school history (2,898).

Jenkins’ father, Michael E. Jenkins, was born in Ridgeland and is a 1978 Ridgeland High graduate. He lives in the Grays area.

“Given all the things taking place, not only in Jasper County, but everywhere, with our youth, we want to make sure the kids take advantage of the those services that can make a difference in a child’s life to help them to stay focused on positive things,” Michael E. Jenkins said.

Also scheduled to compete is Lavar Youmans, a former Wade Hampton High standout who played at Armstrong Atlantic State University and earned a master’s degree in social work from Howard University.

Former Jasper County High basketball standout and current Battery Creek boys basketball coach Antoine Youmans is scheduled to coach the Allen Busby All-Stars, and the Revs. Renty Kitty and Donald Sheftall will guide the Preachers and Deacons.

The Preachers and Deacons team will have participation from area churches, including On Time Holiness Church, Kingdom Touch Ministries, New Road Baptist Church, Grays Community Church, Bibleway Church, Church of God of Prophecy, Second Euhaw Baptist Church and St. Mary’s Baptist Church.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with a youth game, followed by the main event.

“I think it’s very beneficial to the community and to the cause,” Kitty said.

Kitty hopes the game and speakers will inspire the youngsters to “dream far.”

Janice Cohen, Michael E. Jenkins’ sister, lives in Columbia but was schooled for several years in Jasper County.

She said it is important the community knows about all the services that are available.

“We know there’s terrific talent in Jasper County, and we really want to make sure that they have access to all services,” she said.

Ridgeland-based Wright Directions Family Services, led by Gregg Wright and Jawanda McNair, is a partner in the event.

Jenkins said the counseling-centered business is vital to the area and the basketball game is a great opportunity to promote its work. The Jasper County Boys &Girls Club and other agencies have also been invited to participate.

Jenkins said the event is all about reaching the youth.

“To let them know we care about them,” he said. “To show them no matter where you come from, keep your eyes on the prize and you can be successful.”

The event will also feature a DJ and raffles. Tickets are $7. Children 5 and under get in free.

A portion of the proceeds will go to charities and community organizations.

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