Chosen for Change is hosting a teen lock-in for New Year’s Eve to help keep kids safe over the holiday

By Charlotte Beard

Celebrating the ending of a year and beginning of a new one is not just a tradition for adults; youth enjoy being part of the festivities as well. However, some communities are tasked with finding ways to make celebrating the year-end both fun and safe. Looking at the number of children who have died due to gun violence over the past year, co-founders of Chosen for Change (CFC), Michael Brown, Sr. and his wife Cal, were inspired to partner with the Tandy Community Center to host a Family Fun Night and Teen Lock-in for New Year’s Eve.

The New Year’s Eve event will take place at the Tandy Community Center located at 4206 Kennerly Avenue in St. Louis on Dec.31. The “family fun” portion starts at 5 p.m. with a community dinner. While the family portion is open to all ages and concludes at 12:30 a.m., the official “Teen Lock-In” activities, for ages 13 to 18, will begin at 9 p.m. and conclude at 6 a.m. New Year’s Day with breakfast. This is a free event in partnership with the city of St. Louis’ Tandy Community Center. However, CFC is suggesting a donation of $5 per person for the family fun event and $20 per lock-in participant to help with the expenses of hosting the event. Attendance tickets are limited to 150 participants for the teen lock-in.

The idea of the event originated out of Mr. and Mrs. Brown’s desire to use New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to create a special space to celebrate that would help prevent parents from experiencing the loss of a child as they have. 

“Our ultimate goal is to make this a yearly tradition for our children,” shared Cal Brown.

Jana Gamble, media spokesperson for CFC stated, “Mr. Brown, Cal and I were (identifying) who is doing a lot of good in the community and what center would be the best place for (an event). We thought about Tandy. We met with Mr. Munir. This was something he was thinking about doing himself.”

Khaleel Munir, who is stated to have led the attendance growth of the Tandy Community Center by 85 percent, is also known for child and youth work with the 22nd Judicial Court. 

“He has transformed that center and gained a brand new respect with people in that neighborhood,” stated Gamble.

Gamble shared that attendees will participate in a special dedication which will include an ofrenda honoring the lives of children that have died this year due to violence. Unsung Angels will also be in attendance for the event. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created by James Bolden in memory of his nine year old daughter, Jamyla who died from gun violence in 2015. The organization provides a youth mentoring program to children who have been exposed to gun violence or other forms of violence.

During the evening, families will have the opportunity to create their own family vision boards for 2020.

“The Browns motto for this year is walking into 2020 with a perfect vision for our children. That (vision) is to keep our children safe and (provide) support (for) our kids and their dreams. So, every family will have an opportunity to cut out paper, write, and make (various) goals for one poster board that they can look at all year long.”

Supplies of poster boards, markers, etc. will be on hand for each family’s creation. CFC is asking attendees to bring donations of newspapers and magazines that can also be creatively used. 

In addition to the creative family time, attendees can enjoy swimming in Tandy’s heated pool at no cost. All attendees are asked to be mindful of attire for the family event. Other activities leading up to the ball drop include music, STEM activities, and a kids corner. The kids corner will include bouncy houses, free popcorn and cotton candy, arts and crafts, and a coloring contest. Also, local artist David Gorden, will be drawing complimentary caricatures of individuals and families throughout the evening.

During the lock-in, teens can expect to enjoy the basketball court, a boxing ring, a designated room for games in addition to the computer lab for computer games. The evening will include an opportunity to win prizes and special giveaways. In addition, there will be a room available for informal conversations allowing teenagers to talk with someone one-on-one about personal issues. CFC is welcoming the assistance of mental health providers and/or faith leaders in the community who would like to volunteer their time for this designated room.

“I want people to come out and enjoy themselves and have a great time,” stated Michael Brown Sr. “It’s been a stressful year for everyone. We’re trying to keep families close with each other and save lives.”

To inquire about providing donations or volunteering resources for the evening, call 314-776-9750 or email chosenforchangefund@gmail.com.

CUTLINE: Submitted photo Michael Brown, Sr. and his wife Cal stand with a group at a Chosen for Change event earlie this year.