One Jamestown-based nonprofit organization is recognizing the strides it has made from its humble beginnings in 1979.
This week, Chautauqua Striders is celebrating its 35th year of providing athletic and educational opportunities to area students with a public anniversary night at Russell Diethrick Park on Wednesday.
The organization is inviting community members to join the celebration by taking in a Jamestown Jammers game, with thousands of tickets being distributed throughout Chautauqua County. According to Ben Lindquist, executive director of Chautauqua Striders, the objective for the evening was to make the celebration as big as possible.
"We did a buyout night where we wanted to pack the stadium with as many people as it will hold," Lindquist said. "We want to use the night as an opportunity to tell the general public about Chautauqua Striders, and celebrate 35 years of programming with us, and give them an opportunity to make a donation to Chautauqua Striders to help us invest in our next 35 years of programming."
In addition to the game, a special pre-game tent party will also be held - complete with picnic food, drink and music. Chicago-based writer Jonathan Eig will be the guest speaker, and will be available for book signing. Eig has published three biographical books, with two of them being baseball-related - "Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig" and "Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season."
Lindquist said tickets for the pre-game tent party are available for $35 each, the proceeds of which will be primarily used as a donation to fund Chautauqua Striders programming. Tickets can be purchased at Chautauqua Striders' office location in the Jamestown YMCA building at 101 E. Fourth Street, or by calling 488-2203.
The Jammers game will begin at 7:05 p.m., with the pre-game party being held in advance of that.
Those interested in attending the pre-game tent party must purchase their tickets, or make their intentions known by 4 p.m. today for the purpose of providing a headcount.
According to Chautauqua Striders' mission statement, the organization is dedicated to the mentoring and guidance of youth through education, advocacy and athletics. Originally known as the Chadakoin Valley Athletic Club, it was conceived by Dan Feather and Ron Graham as a constructive outlet for youth on Jamestown's north side - engaging them through various track and field activities.
"That's how it all started 35 years ago," Lindquist said. "And it has turned into this multi-faceted organization that we have now, which serves over 1,800 kids a year in a wide variety of programs."
As it became apparent that some of the organization's athletes were having difficulty maintaining academic performance at school, the organization then began offering tutoring services to foster a balance between mental and physical health. Chautauqua Striders continued to grow and was formally incorporated into a nonprofit organization in 1982, becoming a United Way member agency in 1985. Shortly afterward, offices were moved to the YMCA and a permanent location was established on the second floor - providing a defined space for day-to-day business, tutoring and mentoring programs.
During this time, the track and field program continued to flourish to the point that Chautauqua Striders' goal of having an all-weather facility was realized in the construction of Strider Field at Jefferson Middle School. The facility was dedicated in 1990, and subsequently gifted to the Jamestown Public Schools district.
Lindquist said more than 120 adult mentors volunteer through Chautauqua Striders' tutoring program, which offers on-site tutoring at the Jamestown office and its satellite office in Dunkirk.
"Those are a couple of the largest programs that we offer, and we're going to move forward with those types of services," he said. "We're continuing to look for new opportunities, and places where we can provide afterschool education to kids in the community."
He said there are new programs in the works for the coming school year, including opportunities for students to become members of Chautauqua Striders for a small membership fee that is well below the state and national averages of fees for similar services.
For more information on Chautauqua Striders, or to make a donation, call 488-2203, or visit www.chautauqua-striders.org and click the "Donate Now" button.