October 27 is Make a Difference day for WBIR, and our parent company, Gannett. It's a day we are supposed to get out and make an impact in our community, and with your help, we want to create a Field of Dreams for the children of one of East Tennessee's poorest counties.
For many kids growing up in Scott County, the numbers are stacked against them. 85% of children recieve free or reduced lunch. Half of them, 43%, are on food stamps. That's on top of having the highest unemployment rate in the state, 17.5%.
But despite those stats, there's a lot of hope. It's easy to find at the Boys and Girls Club of the Cumberland Plateau.
"We have wonderful people in our community or this place wouldn't be here. But there are places in our community where these kids need us," said Elizabeth Burress, the board chairman.
When Rachel Lewallen started coming here five years ago, she and her brothers didn't have a permanent home. She was a foster child, struggled in school, and felt alone. But then she found the Boys and Girls Club, and it became her home away from home.
"It means almost everything to me. This is where I met my first friends. This is where the staff pushed me to get good grades and they helped me. This is where I get to have fun," said 11-year-old Rachel.
Now, the 6th grader is adopted, with a family at the club, and at home. Plus, she's thriving in school.
"I make all A's," said Rachel.
"This club is the best thing that's happened to these kids. It's helped them in their learning, it's helped them to be better people," said Marietta Lewallen, Rachel's mom. She couldn't help but get a little choked up when she talked about the impact the club has made on her kids.
It's been a blessing for the Lewallen family, and some 500 other kids. Through tutoring, mentoring, and life skills classes after school, the Boys and Girls Club is hoping to change the statistics here.
"I want to provide a better foundation for the next group of young adults so they don't fall in the same traps that exist out there. They learn the value of a job so they don't have to become an unemployment number," said Burress.
The club has a large indoor facility, thanks to local government, but the outdoor space is limited.
"We certainly need a new place to go, a more workable facility that can encourage more participation," said Burress.
The Boys and Girls Club have a big plot of land going unused. The rocky condition and unlevel terrain make it unfit for the kids to play on, and they don't have the resources to fix it right now.
"Those government funds, they dry up. We have cuts everywhere. Grants that have been available in the past are not going to be available to us in the future," said Burress.
With your help, Channel 10 is going to make over their landscape, creating a place where Rachel and the rest of the kids can have room to play.
"I'm dreaming about being in a lot of sports when I get in high school and a field would be good to practice that and get better for when I grow up and get in high school," said Rachel.
The club, and the entire community, will be able to use the field for soccer, football, volleyball, and more.
"My goal would be a multi-purpose use, in a changeable, workable form," said Burress.
It will become "A Field of Dreams" -- helping grow a brighter future for Scott County.
"If we get a field I will be out there practicing and having fun," said Rachel.
So how can you help? We need to raise $20,000 dollars by October 27 to turn that rocky, red clay field into a suitable playing surface.
You can donate on the Field of Dreams page at WBIR.com.
You can also help in other ways, if you'd like to make a donation of sporting equipment, toys or games, even technology or furniture, anything to help enrich those kids lives. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like more information.