The smallest residents of the 2000 block of North 41st Street in the Washington Park neighborhood recently celebrated the opening of Fox Field, a mini-football field on their block, with cupcakes, fruit, cookies, balloons, brightly painted signs, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, pom-poms and an obstacle course.
“It gives the kids a play area. That’s what I [was] looking for. Somewhere for them to play that’s a safe zone for them, that people will respect that it’s theirs and let them play in it,” said Vicky Treadwell, a self-described “mother hen” who lives on the corner of 41st and Brown Streets, next to the field.
The transformation from a trash-filled vacant lot to a clean, freshly painted mini-football field is the result of a collaboration between the crime-fighting organization Safe & Sound, Washington Park Partners and the block’s residents.
Treadwell and her adult children, Kentonio Morgan, and Latricia and Markevin Brown, “have been a huge asset in the project planning process,” according to Phoua Vang, an organizer for Safe & Sound. “They will help supervise the kids. They will pretty much be running the field.”
A peewee football team for 6- to 8-year-olds is forming under the direction of Milwaukee Youth Sports League coach Lazabia Scott Jackson. It will play six games during its first season, through November.
“Somebody’s got to look out for our kids,” said Jackson, who also coaches three teams that play at Custer High School, 5075 N. Sherman Blvd., and Garden Homes, 2450 W. Roosevelt Dr.
The residents have donated equipment including footballs, flags, kegs for water and money for ice from the corner store. “Everybody is participating with helping them out. We’re doing whatever we can do,” Treadwell said.
In July, Vang visited the block and noticed a memorial to a young man who had been shot and killed on the street several years ago. A conversation about that tragedy led to a discussion about what the neighbors wanted most: to clean up the garbage that littered their streets.
In just a week’s time, Vang and the residents had planned a neighborhood cleanup and with the help of Washington Park Partners, 40 neighbors participated. When they decided they wanted the vacant lot turned into a mini-football field, Vang helped them get permission from the city and from Habitat for Humanity, the owner of the lot, to use it for two years.
“It will keep the kids from roaming and doing other things. It will keep them out of trouble,” said Latricia Brown. It’s something they can do when they get out of school, enjoy themselves outside, and the parents don’t have to too much worry about where they are.”