Kandra Gardner-Geoffroy is trying to get the children and teens of Southeast Raleigh physically fit on a shoestring budget.
Gardner-Geoffroy, founder of the nonprofit City Youth, leads dozens of kids through a series of exercises weekly at the Biltmore Hills Community Center. Her goal is to teach kids that they don’t need a sports team or fancy equipment to stay in shape and have fun doing it.
“Everything we did here is stuff that y’all can do at home,” she explained to the group after their session last week. “Make sure you do something for at least 30 to 45 minutes a day.”
City Youth’s biggest expense is renting space for its programs, so Gardner-Geoffroy partners with Raleigh parks and recreation and the Alexander Family YMCA to use their facilities. But to reach kids with little access to transportation, the organization needs more opportunities in Southeast Raleigh neighborhoods.
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That’s why Gardner-Geoffroy is seeking permission from Wake County schools to use the athletic fields at Carnage Middle School. Because the fields are school property, they’re not generally accessible to neighborhood kids, she said.
“What we’re really trying to do is bring some ownership and pride back to the neighborhood,” she said.
Access to Carnage would give City Youth an outdoor track, basketball courts and other amenities for afterschool programs in the warmer months. Winter programming would still be indoors at facilities like the Biltmore Hills gym.
For Gardner-Geoffroy, offering free programs to kids who can’t afford private sports leagues is personal.
“I was that child who used to run on that single track over at Carnage,” she said. “I was one of those people who said as soon as I made it, I would be back.”
The weekly fitness programs are just one of many sponsored by City Youth since it was founded in 2005. It hosts an annual track meet that draws more than 600 kids from across the state. Soon Gardner-Geoffroy plans to add a running league for children with disabilities, as well as expand non-running sports offerings like flag football and baseball.
The proposed partnership with Wake County schools would help make that possible for a nonprofit that runs on 25 volunteers and private donations and grants that total less than $25,000 a year.
“It’s really hard to pull that off because you don’t want to transfer that cost to the children,” Gardner-Geoffroy said.