Clark Martin started his journey with The Thursday Boys in second grade at the age of seven. According to his mom, he played dodgeball, participated in community service projects and excelled in the leadership program.
Today, Martin is 22 years old. He said he still enjoys going to visit the group in his spare time.
"I liked how competitive and how much fun it was, yet there were life lessons to live by," Martin said. "It means a brotherhood who enjoyed the good times and made strong friendships that still last today."
Every Thursday afternoon, roughly 100 children play in Overton Park across the street from Tanglewood Elementary School. The Thursday Boys is a Fort Worth youth group that fosters mentoring and leadership opportunities.
It serves the community with a host of programs and projects. It coaches children in sports and encourages good sportsmanship and friendship.
Jim Redwine, founder of the group, said he is dedicated to mentoring Fort Worth ISD children to help them develop leadership skills and provide community service. This school year, Redwine and The Thursday Boys are celebrating 25 years in the community.
The group started in 1990 when Mr. Redwine began picking up his children from Tanglewood Elementary on Thursday afternoons. He said he made it a habit to take his kids across the street to play in the park and have snacks.
Soon, friends were invited and both younger and older siblings started to join.
“Thursday Boys, for many, is an introduction to sports, a boost of self-confidence, a group of friends and, through a sense of belonging, a connection to a sometimes-excluding world,” Redwine said.
Redwine said he works 60 hours a week as a contract laborer and still finds the time to devote 40 volunteer hours weekly to mentor and play with kids.
However, the group does not just meet on Thursdays. Redwine also plans and organizes activities called red cap and black cap classes.
The group is ranked by age and which color baseball cap a child wears. Green caps are for kindergarteners, blue caps are for first through second graders and the red and black caps are for the oldest and highest ranked children.
The red and black caps performance is judged by their attendance, kindness to all boys, adherence to rules, ability to play fair and willingness to be helpful, according to the operation manual. These are just a few of the requirements for one to be considered for advancement to the next cap level.
Currie Howard, a red cap second-grader from Covenant Classical School, said, “it’s awesome, and I love dodgeball.”
Redwine said the group always meets, rain or shine.
"No matter how crazy the weather or what is happening in a child’s life, T-Boys is something that they can count on,” Redwine said.
The organization also tries to go to the bowling alley on rainy or cold days. Mud days are also a group favorite.
Besides having fun at the park, the group is involved in about 300 service projects throughout the year. Some of these include carnival clean-up, elderly care and inner-city school programs.
“Our son loves Thursday Boys, and I personally love it because it’s a wonderful after school program,” said Sharon Felgham, a Tanglewood mom.
"He can play in a safe area with friends and get involved in the community under the leadership of Mr. Redwine," she said.
In the group's first decade, Redwine said he spent $300,000 of his personal finances to operate the group. He said some of the money paid for shirts, equipment, projects, events, the year-end picnic, summer camp and the occasional trip to Six Flags.
According to the website, the organization is now a tax-exempt, nonprofit association. Redwine accepts donations, sponsorships and anyone willing to spend time devoted to children.
After 25 years, The Thursday Boys now has around 10,000 alumni. Former participants often return to volunteer their time and mentor the children.
Redwine also writes weekly stories and birthday cards that he sends to the children, ending with ITSOO and YFTC, meaning “In The Service Of Others” and “Yours For The Children.”
“It’s all for the kiddos,” Redwine said.
To find more information, volunteer or donate visit the Thursday Boys website: http://www.thethursdayboys.org/