As reported on, written by Jimmy Carlton

A leading Milwaukee-based nonprofit youth organization is the recipient of a grant from ESPN and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, one of just six awards nationwide supporting efforts to build or renovate quality basketball courts at locations that contribute to the well-being of their surrounding communities.

The Running Rebels Community Organization has been awarded a $25,000 LISC/ESPN Pilot Home Court grant to renovate the basketball court at its recreation facility in central Milwaukee. Announced Tuesday from ESPN and LISC, the nation’s top community development support organization, the grant is part of $150,000 allocated this year.

The LISC/ESPN Pilot Home Court Program is a collaboration between ESPN and LISC that provides nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations, middle schools and high schools with financing and technical assistance to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local basketball courts in selected markets.

Launched in 2015, the Home Court program has supported 19 projects and $425,000 in grant awards across the country. The other five cities to receive Home Court grants this year were Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis and Philadelphia.

“Basketball courts can serve as tremendous neighborhood assets,” Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship, said in a statement. “They provide more young people the ability to access sports, which ultimately contributes to better health and quality of life for those in the community.”

According to a news release, the Running Rebels will renovate the gymnasium at their recreation facility, bringing it up to standards that will allow for tournament play. Improvements will include the installation of a new playing court, basketball goals, bleachers and a new scoreboard. The new court will be used by seven Running Rebels basketball teams, as well as the larger community.

“LISC is excited to bring ESPN resources to Milwaukee and to partner with Running Rebels, an organization changing the lives of young people every day,” Donsia Strong-Hill, executive director of Milwaukee LISC, said in a statement.

The Home Court program is part of a larger ESPN social responsibility initiative, RePlay, which works to revitalize vacant spaces into places for sports, recreation and play. LISC identifies local, nonprofit, community-based agencies that have an interest in building or refurbishing basketball courts in schools and neighborhood parks.

Through the program, local agencies are provided with the necessary financing and technical assistance to improve the quality and safety of courts in their communities. The agencies oversee the construction, maintenance and programming of the courts.

Founded in 1980 by Victor Barnett, the Running Rebels Community Organization is a Milwaukee nonprofit that aims to provide safety and positive choices for local youth who face daily challenges, connect kids with mentors, offer them academic, athletic, music and arts opportunities and host community events. Last year, Running Rebels opened a new building on Capitol Drive to join its central location on Fond du Lac Avenue.

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