It started with just a couple of teens bored in the park.
Tomaj Johnson, 15, and Nolan Siner, 13, were playing basketball at Frank McArdle Park when they decided to shoot a video for social media. The video, filmed by Joseph Jones, 16, and only eight seconds long, shows the teens reenacting a play from the 2015 City of Palms basketball tournament. All in all, it took them maybe 10 minutes to put together.
But when they checked Instagram and TikTok the next day, the video had gone viral, amassing millions of views on the popular social media networks. It was reposted on Instagram profile House Of Highlights, where it alone has 2.6 million views.
When the Holme Circle Civic Association caught wind that a video featuring their park had been well-circulated, it wanted to do something to recognize the kids. It aligned perfectly with another project the civic association had going on.
After he heard about the association’s new treasurer Tony Benson and the organization’s long history of trying to renovate the park, Mike Gibson wanted to help out. Gibson runs the 6th Man Project, which donates basketballs to playgrounds around the city. He wanted to give 12 new basketballs to the playground.
The three parties – the civic association, the teenagers and Gibson – gathered at the park last week to present the new basketballs and thank the kids for their creativity.
“This is for you guys,” Gibson told the teens.
Gibson started the 6th Man Project four years ago and has donated around 2,300 basketballs since. Their goal is to donate basketballs to every rec center in the city by the end of the year.
A Father Judge graduate who grew up nearby Frank McArdle Park, he knew how far the donation could go. He said he rarely sees kids playing with good basketballs.
“Now they have a new ball, instead of coming out twice a week, maybe they’ll come out four or five times a week,” he said.
The Holme Circle Civic Association has been trying to revitalize the park for nearly a decade now, raising funds and community support. A groundbreaking was held for the project in 2019, which added a new basketball court and play equipment to the 20,000-square-foot space.
While further renovations are still on the horizon, this was a good moment to celebrate how far they’ve come.
“If you build people will come, and I think this is a prime example of that,” Benson said. ••