HYATTSVILLE — On May 29, the organizers of Partners in Lifting Athletic Youth (PLAY) held a three-on-three basketball tournament to benefit high school students in Prince George’s County.

PLAY was founded by seven graduates of Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. The friends had gone off to college—most to play college football. They hardly ever saw each other, so, to stay close, they gathered for a tackle football game every Thanksgiving that they called the “Turkey Bowl.”

“It started off with seven guys and then the next year it grew to a couple of more guys,” said Brandon Smalls, vice president of PLAY. “The next thing we knew, there were 60 people out there playing tackle football.

“We had two thoughts: This is getting pretty barbaric and we should probably organize this and do something positive with this.”

So in 2007, the group held its first annual “Turkey Bowl” the Saturday after Thanksgiving for charity. This time, it was flag football as opposed to tackle.

In 2008, the group became legal non-profit in conjunction with the second Turkey Bowl. Now the group has begun to grow. In addition to the scholarships the group provides to student athletes in Prince George’s County, it has initiated its own mentoring program as well.

“There’s Project Uplift, which is our mentoring program based out of Northwestern High School,” Small said. “The success stories there aren’t as tangible obviously because there’s no scholarship attached, but just to see the gradual change in student drive is something we consider a success.”

The basketball tournament was held at Lakeland Community Park at 5000 Lakeland Road in College Park.

For more information about PLAY, visit


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO