The smiles across the faces of the children at the new 76ers Learn & Play Center shined nearly as bright as the newly waxed basketball court they were sitting on.

On Friday, the Sixers Youth Foundation officially opened the doors to a new basketball court and education facility at the Jackie Robinson Community Center in Camden.

The education site is equipped with new computers, books and game consoles for the children to use after school and all summer.

“It is a multipurpose educational center that will get our middle-school aged children ready for the future,” said Archie Berwick, an arena host for the Sixers.

According to Sixers president Chris Heck, the planning and execution to open the Learn & Play Center had been a year-long process.

“We have a full department dedicated for community relations that are focused on Camden, Wilmington and Philadelphia,” Heck said.

After the ceremonial ribbon cutting was over and the kids were given permission to take advantage of the new resources, Heck went from computer to computer interacting with the children.

“These kids deserve to get the best of everything that we offer,” Heck said. “It’s our obligation to improve their lives and make kids happy when we get the chance.”

The Learn and Play Center was a year in the making.
ANGEL FRANCO
The Learn and Play Center was a year in the making.

Along with opening the learning center, a new court was installed, and the walls were painted. Not long before the event was over, the children were participating in drills and breaking in the new hardwood.

Camden Mayor Fransisco Moran said the partnership the Sixers and Camden made years ago made today’s ribbon cutting possible.

“Today we celebrate the gymnasium,” Moran said. “More importantly, the learning center, where our children can play and get physically fit but also educate their minds and get fit in their brains.”

Amy Hever, the team’s executive director of social responsibility, said the Sixers have impacted the community in many ways.

“We did a four-year look back at work we did specifically in Camden. We took a look at everything we’ve done,” Hever said. “We’ve engaged and touched over 10,000 youth in the city to date.

“We’re here to help cultivate this talent that is here in front of us today. We’re here to help encourage them and help support them in real ways to grow their academic achievement and their wellness.”

Quajuan Walker, a local sixth-grader, said he was thankful to have the Sixers looking out for kids his age.

“One of the benefits is that kids will have a place to go to keep them out of trouble," he said. "This renovation shows that the 76ers care about the kids of Camden.”