CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Giving back is nothing new during the holiday season, but this year, you have the chance to give back in a new way. Our annual “Day of Giving” has a special emphasis. We are highlighting our Victory Over Violence initiative by helping organizations that work to bring peace to Central Illinois.

“Come out and have fun,” 16- year old Kendez Belk said. “Let’s play basketball.”

Every Friday night in Champaign you can hear the bounce of a basketball. Midnight basketball has been going on for 8 years.

“We started it because we were having violence in our community and part of the problem with that is that kids don’t have a place to go and especially on a Friday night when there’s nothing to do then what do you do,” Willie Comer, organizer of Midnight Basketball, said.

Comer wanted to give kids a space to go on weekends.

“Midnight basketball was something that came about because of the situations that we were facing in our community,” Comer said. “So it was like, let’s get a gym, let’s open it up late night on Friday, not during the day, but late night. So by the time they get home, they’re too tired to do something crazy.”

Kids in 6th grade through high school are able to come out, play some basketball and hang out with friends.

“Somebody got me into this, they’ve been telling me about it, so I’ve been coming, but the reason I just kept coming back was because its been fun playing basketball with others and I just like the sport basketball,” 14- year old Torien Robinson said.

Comer says this is a way to impact their lives.

“Changing culture takes time, at least five years to change culture, so whatever that culture is that they’re coming from, if we’ve got them for six years, about the time they’re seniors in high school we’ve had a chance to impact their lives,” Comer said.

16- year old Kendez Belk has been coming since the 6th grade. He says he’s grateful he has a safe and fun place to go on weekends.

“We just have fun, positivity, spreading the love,” Belk said. “We love playing basketball everyday. We just like to stay out of the streets and stay safe.”

He encourages kids to come out and play some basketball.

“This is great,” Belk said. “It helps every young kid. It helps them stay off the streets and have a great future and it helps us have something to do every weekend.”

The kids play basketball at the Salvation Army gymnasium on Prospect Avenue. The middle schoolers play from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. every Friday night and the high schoolers play from 9:00 p.m. – midnight.