THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Manny DeBrito is the Executive Director and CEO of the A’s B4 Nonprofit Corporation, created to provide impressionable youth with development through out-of-school learning opportunities, mentorship, health and wellness training, physical activity and creative support.

Growing up as a youth in the 80s, there was nothing more beautiful to me than a Celtics fast break where the ball never touched the ground, a Larry Bird 3-pointer over an outstretched defender’s hand or Michael Jordan in flight from the free-throw line. I’d hone my skills on a Nerf hoop or a low-hanging milk crate for hours. My friends and I would watch NBA or college games then run to the nearby court and imagine we were the ones hitting a last-second shot, with thousands of fans cheering our names.

This was happening on courts throughout New Bedford and in cities and towns all over the country. Basketball to us was art and the court was our canvas. To be honest, there was no Picasso among us–or even a Bob Ross, for that matter–but that was okay. It was a place we gathered to share our love and passion for the game. A place to dream about the potential for our future. The game of basketball was our refuge, an escape from some of the harsh realities some youth face.

Although my NBA career never took off, there is one thing I can say that I say I took from my hours and hours on all the local courts: I’m still a dreamer and I’ve been able to dream myself to a blessed life for my family. That’s why I was so excited when the New Bedford Art Museum reached out to me to collaborate on the Creative Courts Project.

The museum, along with artist Maria Molteni and New Craft Artists in Action, set out to revitalize the Clasky Common Park basketball courts with a beautiful mural based off the input of the community’s youth. They literally turned the court into an amazing work of art, making these kids’ dreams come true. Add in new hoops from True Bounce and additional support from A’s B4 Nonprofit, the City of New Bedford Parks & Rec, Superflat and 3rd Eye, along with donations from Community Foundation, Chuck Smiler, the Oxcart, School of Yoga New Bedford, Servpro and Sherwin Williams, and these dreams became a reality–one that area kids will be able to enjoy for years to come.

Courtesy Manny DeBrito

To celebrate this wonderful community achievement, please bring your kids out to a block party at Common Park, Friday, August 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be music, free lunch and ice cream for the youth, basketball, yoga, a farmer’s market and more. You will see some kids imagining hitting a “3” like Steph Curry or a LeBron James buzzer-beater. Who knows, you may even get a glimpse of me reliving my childhood dreams…3…2…1…all net!

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.