“We want to see you be better than we were,” Darrell Edmonds told about 100 Atlantic County boys gathered at Young’s Skating Center on Tuesday night.
“Save Our Boys” was created by Pleasantville friends Jason Smart-El and James Pressley as a way to offer the kids some fun while also trying to inspire them to keep on the right path.
Leaders from the community addressed the kids before they then got a chance to skate, eat pizza and get a chance to win prizes.
“I think it’s cool,” said 10-year-old Hanif Rios, a fourth-grader from Atlantic City. “Some boys don’t have communication with each other.”
But Tuesday’s event allowed them all to come together, focusing on the towns of Atlantic City and Pleasantville.
Jim Link and Judy Young Link were happy to welcome the group to their rink in Mays Landing. They also welcomed back a former regular, Brandon Bell, now an NFL rookie playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bell said there were more talented players than him coming out of his alma mater, Oakcrest High School. But that it takes more than talent. That it took perseverance and education as well.
“Some of them didn’t piece it all together,” he said.
Bell did, said his former coach Edmonds, who said Bell not only was talented but he worked hard.
Durann Neill grew up in Pleasantville’s south side where shootings were not rare.
“I grew up with everyone who did the wild stuff,” he told the boys. Then he realized, “it can’t be that hard because you see everyone else doing it that’s not from our community.”
Now, he’s a busy defense attorney.
“My message is simple and rather quick,” he told them. “With hard work and dedication, you really can be anything you want to be.”
“That should resonate with some of these kids,” said Kevin Bennett, who brought his 11-year-old grandson to the event.
He said giving these talks can help plant a seed that will germinate and, down the road, it can click with a child.
The boys not only got to eat pizza and skate, three went away with new bikes donated by Asbc rentals, owned by husband and wife Abdul Nasir and Michele Griffin. The company also provided 15 gift cards, and put together gift bags for each boy.
Older boys also came to lend their support and guidance.
“I believe you can’t really teach someone you don’t care about,” said Juwan Wilcox, 20, of Mays Landing.
He also makes sure to set a good example for his 16-year-old brother.
Wilcox is a member of Friday is Tie Day , a group started by Edmonds that provides mentorship and encourages young men to have one day a week where they dress like gentlemen.
Sheriff’s Officer Mike Bright found out about the event at the last minute, but decided to come by and lend his support, in uniform.
Pressley’s sons gave their father’s event their seal of approval.
“Awesome,” said 8-year-old Razear Pressley.
“It’s fun,” said 10-year-old James Jr., who gave a thumbs up.
But his sister wasn’t happy it was boys only.
“She said the next one has to be for the girls,” he said.
For Pressley Sr. and Smart-El, it’s about all the children.
“There’s a quote from Magic Johnson that I think fits today,” Smart-El said: “All kids need a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.”
“A lot of people forget about these kids,” Smart-El said, looking around the a gathering. “We need to take care of the youth.”