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Community news: Harlem Globetrotters visit YMCA, Peter and Lee Merlo toast 70 years

January 15, 2013|By Joyce Rudolph
  • The Harlem Globetrotters Herbert Lang, aka "Flight Time," and Nate Lofton, aka "Big Easy," meet children at the Burbank Community YMCA Child Development Center. They are Adara Chi, Ozzy Chichoyan and Leia Beigelat.
The Harlem Globetrotters Herbert Lang, aka "Flight… (Photos by Andre…)

Harlem Globetrotters teammates Herbert Lang, aka “Flight Time,” and Nate “Big Easy” Lofton generated a lot of excitement in December when they stopped by the Burbank Community YMCA to shoot a breast cancer awareness video and entertain some of the kids from the Child Development Center with their basketball skills.

In fact, the YMCA and basketball have a storied history, said Susan Sebastian, senior director of membership and communication, who adds that the sport was invented at a YMCA more than 120 years ago.

On a gloomy December morning, a young physical education teacher named James Naismith had a few weeks to come up with a new game to attract the football and rugby-loving-class of future of YMCA directors. Naismith hung peach baskets to the wall and tacked up 13 rules. And that's how basketball started.

Today, the Burbank Community YMCA continues the tradition through its Junior Lakers program, which has more than 300 youngsters enrolled ages 3 to 15.

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“It is still an ideal way to teach teamwork and sportsmanship along with slam dunks and 'no look' passes,” Sebastian said. “What sets this program apart is its volunteer base of coaches, many of whom were in the program themselves, and the fact that everybody gets to play.”

It is that kind of combination of youth development and specific sports skills that motivated local businessman Keith Swaner to replace the YMCA's heavily used and scuffed up basketball court floor. Owner of Swaner Hardware, lifelong Burbank resident and a philanthropist, Swaner saw a need and filled a gap.

“He recognized the benefit of youth sports and that active young people grow up to be active adults, who work hard and are more productive not just in the business community but to their neighborhood community,” Sebastian said. “At the Y, we want to nurture the potential of every child and teen.”

That's why the YMCA has embarked on its capital campaign “Strong Today, Stronger Tomorrow” to raise $3 million in capital funds so the Y can continue to set the standard for child and youth development.

For more information on the Burbank Community Y or the Junior Lakers program, visit www.burbankymca.org. Registration is now being taken for the next Junior Lakers session.

Couple toast 70 years together at the Drake

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