May 16th marked the 11th Annual Dribblethon, the end-of-the-year celebration for the Saturday Hoops program. Saturday Hoops has been a part of the OTR community since 2004 and became a part of CYC in 2014. Much of the success of Saturday Hoops is due to Nancy and Kevin Costello’s hard work, passion, and commitment to vulnerable kids. So, we honor them together as the May CYC Hero.
You may have seen the recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about the Saturday Hoops program. CYC is honored to have Saturday Hoops and Nancy and Kevin as a part of the organization.
Eleven years ago, Ed and Sally Berg packed up their suburban lifestyle and dedicated their lives to ministry in Over the Rhine. That ministry spurred the creation of Saturday Hoops, a free program for youth offered every Saturday from January through May. That spark of ministry has been kept alive by his daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Kevin, this month’s CYC Heroes. In the early days, the Saturday Hoops program involved a small group of kids, approximately twenty or less. Little by little, it outgrew its original home of Emanuel Community Center with Nest Trinity Church and moved to the OTR Recreation Center.
Nancy and Kevin live busy lives. Nancy is employed at Vision 2015 as part of the education initiative for the Northern Kentucky region, and Kevin is the Executive Director of Boone County Planning Commission. Although they had always been involved in Saturday Hoops, their roles were not constant. However, after Ed’s passing in 2010, they knew they had to keep her dad’s memory alive by keeping the program going. “We were just telling people we were committed to keeping it going,” remembers Nancy. And keep it going they did.
Today, the program serves approximately 175 kids per week, for eighteen consecutive weeks, with a volunteer force of about 50 each Saturday. Nancy estimates that last year they reached a total of 250 kids throughout the season. This program gives kids the opportunity to be active, have fun, and meet positive adults throughout the winter months. Over the years, more than just the size of the program has increased.
“We’ve really grown the program to be more than just a basketball program,” Nancy explains. “We’re growing the mentoring. The kids who have been involved for a while, you can see the impact.”
Each Saturday has a theme, such as “Respect” or “Give more than you receive,” and the day opens with a guest speaker who discusses that theme. The crowd then splits into smaller groups to explore basketball, art, fitness programs, and “Huddles.” The Huddles, in which kids get into small groups to discuss the week’s theme or meet with adults one on one, are what really encourage the mentoring aspect.
“There was one young man who was in third grade when my dad started the program,” recalls Nancy, “and now he’s graduating from high school and he’s still coming down. He went through some tough times, but Saturday Hoops was that common element.”
Like any true hero, Nancy is quick to acknowledge the strong team she has alongside her. A core team of about ten have settled into specific roles, with Nancy leading volunteer coordination and meals and Kevin overseeing finance and budget.
Part of that core team is Kent Wellington, CYC’s Board Chair. He praises the way in which Nancy and Kevin have kept the Bergs’ legacy alive. “Thanks to their leadership,” he says, “our 11th Annual Dribblethon on May 16th included a strong faith component, intertwined with basketball on five courts, food, music, dance, and a super diverse group of 500 attendees.”
Kent was deeply involved with the partnering of Saturday Hoops and CYC, and describes them as “a perfect match, given both are focused on working collaboratively to improve the lives of vulnerable kids in our community.”
Nancy shares that passion for empowering youth, stating, “I’ve seen in all these kids—they have the seeds for great potential. All they need is the love, the encouragement, the positivity, and the support to believe that and see it for themselves.”
For being that love, that encouragement, that positivity, and that support, we thank you, Nancy and Kevin, for being heroes not just to CYC, but to the hundreds of youth whose lives you have impacted for the better.
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CYC Heroes is a monthly feature recognizing individuals who go above and beyond expectations to serve the CYC community. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes: mentors, students, ambassadors, employees, donors, volunteers, and board members. Know someone who makes CYC stronger? Submit your CYC Hero nomination to Kate Elliott, at firstname.lastname@example.org