Fusing sports and guidance in the Bensley community

On Saturday morning, a small group of middle-aged men convened in a room adjacent to the gym at First Baptist Church of Hopewell to discuss local sports and the promising futures of young athletes. However, a handfull of these young athletes but on the win gradually unfolding in front of them.

That morning, these men from Cornerstone Church in Chester could see firsthand what their hard work had done for numerous players with the Bensley/Cornerstone Athletic Club ― a multi-sport program started in 2008 as part of the church’s community outreach program, mentoring local youth on life’s challenges. Through a variety of sports activities, the club provides its volunteers with the necessary resources to educate and share with local youth.

One of several Cornerstone men attending the game that day, Brad Mcgaha, the unofficial director of the athletic club, shared a word about the club’s approach to youth development and what it seeks to accomplish. To him, even the presence of a proper role model alone can do more for a youth’s well-being than most could ever fathom.

 “We’re basically living our lives in front of them, making them part of our lives and sharing our life with them,” said Mcgaha. “Sports (are) what we’re focusing on to bring all the kids together.”

Mcgaha, a former marine and “recovering” rugby player, understands how lessons are learned from playing sports, such as teamwork and confidence. Jeff Knickerbocker, assistant coach of the athletic club, agrees with Mcgaha that sports offer a unique educational experience.

“There’s such a parallel between life experiences and sports,” said Knickerbocker, whose daughter, Megan Knickerbocker, 17, is the head coach of the team. “It’s a great teaching tool; you learn to overcome in sports; you do the same thing in life. That’s what we try to pass on to these kids … and spend a little time mentoring somebody and showing them, literally showing them what life can be.”

Although the club encourages competitive sports as a way for local youth to mature and learn, Mcgaha also envisions change on a long-term, practical scale ― where boundless opportunities are made possible by education.

“…We want to offer not only sports, we want to help these kids get into college,” said Mcgaha. “And that’s not just through athletics.”

Todd Wilson, a veteran member of the Bensley/Cornerstone Athletic Club, enjoys the impact on of the club on its local youth. He said: “When I do these programs, I get to watch these kids growing up and how it’s changed their lives. It’s just amazing … to see what happens in a community when the church starts being part of the community, which I thought was our call all along.”

Youth can sign up to play for the Bensley/Cornerstone Athletic Club at the Bensley Community Building on Tuesday, Feb. 1, and Thursday, Feb. 3, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and what the families cannot pay, they later can make through working within the program, as the club accommodates all of its players. The non-profit organization also accepts donations as a way to perpetuate this cycle of helpful guidance for the youth living in the surrounding area.

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