Amherst, N.Y. - The City of Lockport has received national recognition from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for Game Changers, a community outreach program coordinated by Daemen College Head Men's Basketball Coach Mike MacDonald in collaboration with the Buffalo office of the DEA. City officials and Game Changers representatives were on hand Thursday, June 15 in Washington, D.C. to receive the DEA Administrator's Award for Public Service, an award considered to be the second highest recognition given out by the agency.
Game Changers is an eight-week program which offers basketball instruction and the teaching of life skills to at-risk youths each Friday evening from mid-June through mid-August. The program has long been championed by MacDonald, dating to its inception in 2012 when MacDonald was roaming the sidelines at Medaille College. The program began in the City of Buffalo and has also been conducted in the City of Niagara Falls before going to Lockport in 2015, where it has been credited with helping to drop the juvenile crime rate.
In addition to MacDonald's coordination, many Daemen College student-athletes and staff members have volunteered to work with the program. Daemen student-athletes who have done so in recent years include men's basketball players Supreme Hannah, Deion Hamilton, Melvin Grayson, Breon Harris, Nick Petrucelli, Torrence Dyck, Andrew Sischo, Jeff Redband and Gerald Beverly. Daemen Athletics employees who have volunteered include former men's basketball assistant coaches David Johnson and Mike Berkun, current men's basketball assistant Ryan Grandits, as well as Mame Yaa Ankoma-Mensa and Lea Sobieraski.
"We were honored to receive this award from the DEA's national office. Game Changers is a special program that tries to give kids an alternative to street life," said MacDonald. "The program in Lockport has been so successful because of the work of the Lockport Police Department, especially Captain Doug Haak, and of course the incredible support of Mayor Anne McCaffrey."
"On a personal level, this is a great way for our student-athletes to give back to the Western New York community," MacDonald continued. "Our guys give up time on their Friday nights in the summer to help mentor young boys and girls in an effort to make Western New York a better place. They realize how fortunate they are and I admire them for taking the time to help others rise up. It's really awesome to watch them share their stories and connect with the kids."
The award given last week marks the second high profile recognition for the Game Changers program. In February of 2015, Niagara Falls was the recipient of the United States Department of Justice National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Award for Outstanding Prevention Initiative.
"From what I've seen, it has the capacity and the possibility to be life changing for the young boys and girls who will be participating in this program" said U.S. Attorney William Hochul upon the program's institution in the City of Lockport two years ago. "I much prefer that our young people spend their time on these kinds of courts, basketball courts, instead of criminal courts where, unfortunately, many young people end up after making the wrong decisions."
The 2017 Game Changers program began last Friday evening at Lockport High School, and is being run jointly between Lockport and the City of Lackawanna.
Provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.