Bertie Co. offering free open gym for the summer

AULANDER, N.C. (WNCT) – After six murders in two months, people in Bertie County are stepping up to give children in the area a safe place to have fun.

This summer, the YMCA teamed up with the Town of Aulander to offer kids in the county access to a gym to play basketball.


Erick Speight, a senior at Bertie High School, says this program exposes kids in the community to positive activities.

“It isn’t just about in the streets. [If] they be around people that all they do is be in the street and steal and stuff that is what they are going to do. If they see us in the gym playing ball then it’s a positive in their life.” said Speight.

Bertie County native and community activist, John Askew, helped spread the word about the open gym to kids in the community. He says this is much-needed program for the area.

“What’s been going on in Bertie lately, this is [a] big thing for the kids to have something positive to do and stay out of the street. This is very huge,” said Askew.

Executive Director of the YMCA Bertie County, Casey Owens, contacted town officials in May about starting the program.

“It’s just to give the kids something to do. You know what they are doing if they are in here; so, we can monitor them and they can have some good fun,” said Owens.

Owens and Askew open the gym from noon to 5p.m. Monday through Friday.


Free basketball is open to children ages 15 and under from noon until 2p.m. People 16 and over are welcomed to use the gym from 2p.m. – 5p.m.


Mayor of Aulander,  Larry Drew, hopes this partnership inspires other organizations to bring more activities for young people to rural communities like Bertie County.

“It makes such a difference. We have a little league program for kids 5 -13 years old; but, so many of them don’t fall into that category. We need something for  them to do, some place they can call a safe place, they can go to have fun, enjoy themselves, and make new friends,” said Drew, ” Right now we are at the stage where we are crawling. Eventually, we’ll be walking and it won’t be long before we are full speed and running.”

For information on the free gym program, contact the Town of Aulander or the YMCA Bertie County.

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