newslots aims high saving the world one kid at a time

LOTS aims high: Saving the world, one kid at a time

It’s gratifying to see a kid get it. Marilyn McGonigal had one of those eureka! moments the other day.

“When you see a child’s eyes light up, that’s when you know,” said McGonigal, a volunteer in the Learning Opportunity Through Sports afterschool program in Staunton.

LOTS is the brainchild of Jerry Venable, a Staunton native and former NBA and Harlem Globetrotters star who dreamed as a child of doing something one day to help kids come out of tough situations like he’d had to.

“A buddy of mine, we used to sit on the street corner late in the evening and talk about how were going to help kids when we got older. You go on in life, and I just forgot about it, you know? I probably wasn’t in a position to do it then. Now that I am, I said, why not?” said Venable, who launched LOTS in 2006.

The program is currently operating out of donated space at the American Legion Post 13 in Staunton. It is open to children ages 6-16, and the daily routine features homework time, reading time and then an hour of sports and exercise.

Retired local restauranteur John Benson heads up the sports and fitness program. The routine includes warmups, some calisthenics and plenty of structured playtime.

“I like seeing the progress. I know that they’re getting better at the sports that we’re teaching them. Talking with their parents and hearing about their days at school, I know it’s been helping them in school,” Benson said.

LOTS is currently serving about a half-dozen youngsters. Venable wants to keep the numbers low so that the children in the program can get more individualized attention from the homeowrk and sports tutors, but there is room to add six to eight more youths into the program.

“We can’t save the whole world. But if we can save those kids right there,” Venable said, pointing to the group working on homework a few feet away, “then we’ve done something.”

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Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at [email protected].



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