South Charlotte

Young volunteers will watch the Bobcats

Josh Ussery is looking forward to watching his favorite Charlotte Bobcat, Kemba Walker, against the Cleveland Cavaliers; but the 11-year-old from Matthews understands Monday isn't only about basketball.

Mecklenburg County's Park and Recreation Department is sponsoring its first Hoops and Hope service project, an event that combines volunteering at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in the morning and a trip to the Bobcats home game in the afternoon.

Participants will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Naomi Drennan Recreation Center, where Kobeyeh Riley works as a Recreation Specialist. Riley arranged the day's activities.

Riley says he targeted 9- to 11-year-olds because volunteer opportunities are not as plentiful for them as for older groups.

He says he felt the King Holiday was a good time for the project because the youths could understand last August's dedication of the King Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It's special because the day is celebrating Martin Luther King," said Ussery, who plays in Park and Recreation's youth basketball league. "I think about how he used his mind as a weapon, instead of his fists."

The Gantt Center became a logical partner because of its range of King holiday events titled "MLK Day 2012 - Finding Harmony in Difference."

Starting 9 a.m., the Gantt Center will host events such as the viewing of a tolerance education film, production of a play titled "The Meeting: Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," and other civil rights-themed activities.

Through a partnership with the Gantt Center, the nearby Knight Theater will also host King holiday activities.

The Hoops and Hope participants paid $27 to attend the Charlotte Bobcats game (registration closed Jan. 9). Volunteering at the Gantt Center is free.