Sports touches so many in so many different ways, especially children from the fundamentals, teamwork and just the point of pure fun and enjoyment. So many of us have memories galore of all of the great times on the playing field or courts of our youth, but so many of us take for granted those opportunities, and in some cases, that experience has eluded some extraordinary kids.
These kids have become the focal point of one local man that is bound and determined to give children with special needs a safe and promising place to participate in youth sports. Jay Matlock has turned the experiences he has gained with his nephew Nate, who has Autism, into a new world of possibilities for local children through Just Amazing Youth Sports (JAYS).
“I want to give these kids a place to play and give them real-life opportunities,” Matlock said.
JAYS is a local non-profit organization that currently works with around 20 special needs children that vary from physical to intellectual disabilities. The group offers a number of sports activities like basketball, baseball, flag football and even kickball. They are open to kids from 5-18 years of age.
Matlock has been a part of the Dayton Youth Sports Association for over 15 years, and when they pursued someone to head their special needs organization several years ago, he jumped on the chance. Now he has the opportunity to grow a larger organization focused on providing the same opportunity for these children that so many others have always had the chance to do.
Matlock works closely with Dixie’s District Director, Bo Cumberland, to expand the special needs district to areas including Dayton, Liberty, East Montgomery and Splendora. He has been with Dixie since 2004 and his ultimate goal is to have a Dixie League World Series in Longview, TX for children as part of the Dixie League Buddy Ball Program at a facility designed specifically for this group’s purpose.
“Bo has played a vital role in helping us get involved with the Dixie Youth Baseball Buddy Ball program on the district and state level. He and I started together in ‘04 coaching our sons, we coached against each other over the years in league ball and coached all-stars together until he took on the District Director role a few years ago,” Matlock said.
JAYS does not cost the families of the children participating in the program’s activities, with funds being raised through sponsorships and events like the upcoming Cops vs. Kids Basketball Game. The program covers the cost of insurance, uniforms and supplies athletic equipment for the kids. “It’s not just for the kids; it’s as much for the parents. The costs of being a special needs parent are high and we want to commit to keeping the program free,” Matlock emphasized.
Matlock serves as President and is joined on the JAYS Board of Directors by a number of local like-minded individuals. Vice President - 1 Tia Robinson, Vice President - 2 Ashley Thompson, Secretary Jessica Fingleman and Treasurer Tara Hanel.
The 2nd Annual Cops vs. Kids will pit the JAYS kids against the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department this year, after defeating the Dayton Police Department in last year’s event. The game was originally the brainchild of John Coleman, who recently retired from the DPD and is now a part of the LCSO as Wes Hinch’s Liberty County Court-at-Law No. 2 Bailiff.
“I think it is extremely important, I think it gives the children and the police opportunity to know each other, the children know they can trust the police if they need help and the police can identify children with special needs and understand their pre-existing condition,” Coleman said of the relationship between the kids and local police.
The 2nd Cops vs. Kids is set for Saturday, Feb. 20 at10 am in the Dayton High School Gymnasium, with a $3 entry fee. Dayton ISD policy requires all in attendance to wear a mask on school property. The big event also serves as the largest fundraiser the JAYS have all year, with the basketball game being accompanied by their baked goods and silent auctions.
“Most of the money raised will go to the travel cost associate with the kid’s games,” Matlock noted.
There will be many great items on the silent auction tables, including tons of Houston Astros memorabilia and many other items.
Sponsors for the event are Jeff Diamant P.C., Southern Belle Cookiery, Matt Liben, Steve Hanson, The Oaks Club, Gulf Coast Collectors Shows, Frankline Godfrey, Houston Astros Nation , Lon Bozarth, Granny Georgia Riggs, Sabre Processing Inc. Dugout Mugs, Franks Collision Center, Star Twirl Cheer & Gym, The Vindicator, Uncle Bam Bam’s KoolTreats, Blueboybowties, Tara Hanel - JLA Realty #yourhometownrealtor, Scents of Soy, Calvary Baptist Church, The Swearingen’s, Kenefick Pit, Western Auto, Total Graphics of Dayton, Touching All People, Michelle Johnston, D-Juiceman Party Rentals, LLC, The Greene’s and Dr. Xavier Lewis.
Matlock wants this group to provide a truly unique and important purpose in the lives of these children, with the program open to any child that qualifies. “We do not have any borders,” Matlock concluded.
JAYS is always looking for sponsors and donations to help provide more opportunities for more children. If you are interested in being a part of this great program, you can call him at 281-839-8924.