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Former YMCA camper continues to give back
Jabari Bennett, 20, has been with the Covington Family YMCA for 20 years. - photo by Mariya Lewter

In a 10-minute span, Jabari Bennett said hello to about 10 children passing through while he sat underneath the pavilion at the YMCA outdoor facility on Stone Road. Everyone knew his name, which is a tell-tale sign that he is a major part of this community.

Many people choose to give back to the places that helped cultivate who they are, including the 20-year-old Bennett.
Bennett, a junior history major at Valdosta State University, has been a part of the Covington Family YMCA community for 15 years.

“I help when needed,” he said jokingly. “I tend never to say no. That’s one of my big things.”

Bennett joined the Y at 5-years-old as a camper, and today serves in my different capacities. Along the way, he has held several different roles within the organization, from playing to refereeing to coaching, and kept one goal in mind: to be of help in any way he can.

From soccer to swimming, Bennett has had his hand in just about every sport of the YMCA. Currently, he works with the day camp, where parents drop off their kids for a long day of games, swimming, and other activities. He also helps out with KidZone, where kids play while their parents workout in the Y’s gym facilities. In the past few weeks, he also helped run the Y’s first ever summer soccer league.

“I’ve lived the true ‘Y’ experience,” he said. “I went to the day cap when I was about 5, then became an LIT, which are Leaders In Training. And now I’m camp counselor now too.”

The love for the YMCA actually runs in the family as Bennett’s father, Brent, served as the first coach of the Galaxy soccer team, and his brother, Jalen, currently works as a referee.

“The reason I like coming back here is because everyone knows everybody. Everyone is very nice to everybody, so I feel like this is just like one big family.”

Bennett has dreams of becoming a museum curator once he graduates college, and when--or if--he leaves the Y, he will have left a lasting impression on his campers.

“I just like to help these kids play,” he said. “I want to help them as much as possible. I want these kids to have fun. As long as they have fun, I feel that I have succeeded. I don’t care if my kids win or lose. As long as they progress and have fun, that’s all I need for them.”