Tournament honors King’s birthday

Devandis Caffey passes the ball behind another player's back during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day basketball tournament at the Shelby County Instructional Services Building in Alabaster. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Kids First Awareness Community Center celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Jan. 17 by mixing unity with competition at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster.

More than 50 people of all ages and races filled the center’s gym throughout the afternoon as several five-member teams played round after round of basketball.

The basketball tournament was the final event in Kids First’s weekend-long celebration of King’s birthday. On Jan. 15, the center organized a prayer walk down Shelby County 11 through Alabaster’s Simmsville community before dedicating Mt. Olive Road to King.

“This is all part of the Kids First Martin Luther King service learning project,” said Cindy Hawkins, director of Kids First. “On Saturday, we had 243 people there all at once.”

Children at Kids First, a non-profit community center for at-risk kids, worked for more than a year to plan the weekend and dedicate the road to the civil rights icon.

The center organized the Jan. 17 basketball tournament to bring the community together on a day many were out of school and off work, Hawkins said.

“Today is just a day for people to focus on the importance of health and fitness,” said Hawkins, who was surrounded by children and adults sprinting down the court trying to sink as many baskets as they could.

“We tried to put the kids versus the adults today, so everyone would benefit,” Hawkins added. “Today is really going to be a good day. The kids and the adults are excited.”

Because this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. weekend events drew hundreds of people, Kids first is already planning bigger events for next year, Hawkins said.

“You can see how crowded we are in here, and this is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Hawkins said. “If it’s this good this year, think of how good it will be next year.

“I’m afraid we will run out of room here today. We may outgrow this gym next year.

“We’ve got even bigger plans for next year,” Hawkins added.