With sunset approaching Wednesday on a summer evening at Lou Costello Recreation Center in Boyle Heights, Chargers President of Football Operations John Spanos, Head Coach Anthony Lynn and rookie linebacker/L.A. native Uchenna Nwosu all joined Mayor Eric Garcetti, new LAPD Chief Michel Moore and several community leaders to celebrate a decade of Summer Night Lights (SNL) while kicking off the program's 11th season.
"We know Summer Night Lights is a proven difference-maker," Spanos said. "You've heard all the stats, it's unbelievable. We know it reduces violence, it builds communities (and) it makes communities safer. We also know that SNL needed more funding to operate at its full potential and that's why we're here today. We're here to make a difference for Summer Night Lights, because we know Summer Night Lights can make a difference right now. We want to make the community a better place. That was always my grandfather's vision for this team, and I know that we're doing it in a fashion right now that he's proud of."
Summer Night Lights provides meaningful programming to 32 parks across the region, keeping them open and adding extended programming between the hours of 7 pm – 11 pm during the summer. Targeting communities at risk for gang violence, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2017, SNL locations saw a 46% decrease in gang-related crimes versus 2016. Each year, nearly 700,000 will attend a Summer Night Lights program, which has transformed local parks into neighborhood hubs on summer evenings with programming that targets all ages, free food and gathering spaces to build community interconnectedness.
"This isn't just about transforming lives, this is also about saving lives," explained Garcetti. "We recently did a study about SNL and we found that in the last few years, grid workers have prevented 185 gang-related violent crimes, including homicides in the last two years alone. That means there are people who are walking, dreaming and living in this city today who otherwise wouldn't have been with us were it not for this program and the program that grid workers do every day."
"I can remember what it was like when I was a kid running around in parks and having fun," Lynn said. "It's awesome to come out and see the kids having a good time. Not only going through athletics, but being educated. It's a great concept, and I'm glad to be a part of it. I think it's making a major impact."
The Chargers' seven-figure support of Summer Night Lights over the next three years enables expanded sports programming across all 32 locations – including uniforms for participants, referees and increased access to sports clinics – while ensuring it remains free for participants. In particular, Chargers funding will help the program increase the number of sports registrations by 30% this year alone by funding Sports Fellows – local community youth who will conduct outreach in the community. Additionally, Chargers funding will also help the program double the number of intervention-led sports activities during SNL, an example being softball tournaments with the community and L.A. Police Department.
"This is the first in what will be a series of targeted initiatives we are undertaking in effort to address serious issues that exist in our community," said Chargers Controlling Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos of the team's support. "I give our players a ton of credit for helping us develop a plan, and I would like to thank Mayor Garcetti for his vision and continued support of a program as important as Summer Night Lights. At the most basic level, if you don't feel safe in your own community, you can throw everything else out the window. Summer Night Lights is a proven violence prevention initiative and brings communities together. We're excited to join forces with the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Gang Reduction & Youth Development and The GRYD Foundation to help expand and grow Summer Night Lights programming as it enters its second decade of operation."
"The Chargers' support is so important," added new LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who was sworn into his post earlier in the day and making his first public appearance as Chief of Police. "It is the boost of an initiative that gets us over the challenge; it's the octane boost. We put about half of the resources necessary to get this program going, but donations from organizations such as the Chargers are allowing us to not only continue it, but to expand it. It's the cream with the coffee. It's what matters to really optimize our efforts."
For a schedule and full list of participating parks, click here to view the Summer Night Lights English and Spanish language flyers.
Browse through the best photos from L.A's Summer Night Lights kickoff event.