The Oregon Youth Authority celebrated an unprecedented donation this month: $110,000 from Salem Evangelical Church to install a new gym floor at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.
The donation, the largest OYA has ever received from a private organization, allowed the agency to replace MacLaren’s hard concrete gym floor with a new one made of wood, which is safer and makes the space more of a place of pride for youth. OYA did not have the budget to pay for this much-needed upgrade, and Salem Evangelical Church — already a strong OYA supporter through volunteer hours and donations of items — offered to raise the money.
At a celebratory event on Feb. 8, attended by many church members, pastor Randy Butler said that they wanted to support OYA youth because “here tonight as Oregonians, we are family.”
“This floor sits on the old floor, a new floor built on the old. Your life is a new life built on the old,” he told the youth. “We believe in you, we love you, we are very proud of you, and you are winners.”
The dedication kicked off OYA’s annual all-facility basketball tournament. At the opening event, youth from most of OYA’s male facilities showed off their talents in hotshot and three-point competitions.
The space also was re-christened as the Valley Athletic & Community Center. It will be a space where youth from all of OYA’s male facilities can use sports to stay active and practice teamwork. The goal is for the center to become a place where the outside community and OYA youth can form positive relationships and support networks that will help in the youths’ rehabilitation.
NOTE: The original version of this story included photos of youth participating in a hotshot basketball contest. We have removed the photos to protect the youth.