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'We need funding:' Northside camp founder says help is needed to expand

Ben Ballard says he needs between $80-$90,000 in funding. The camp teaches kids how to fly drones, dance, and paint among other activities.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The sights and sounds of summer put a wide smile on Ben Ballard's face. 

"My whole life depends on the summer, summer is about having fun for the kids," Ballard said. 

From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Ballard and his staff of volunteers give kids an opportunity to paint, play and learn at the Jacksonville Sports Summer Camp.

"We did video game designing on Monday's and Wednesday's now we're doing Tuesday's and Thursday's for drone techniques, and we're learning how to puzzle piece together a drone programming," camp volunteer, Skyy Perry, said. 

Perry is a student at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, and it's her first year at the camp as one of its STEM counselors.

"I'm in their lives, so it's like if I'm going to be in their lives, I want to make sure I'm influential in their lives and make sure that they're actually learning something from me," Perry said.

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Perry and the rest of the counselors sacrifice 10 weeks of their summer to volunteer at the camp. Ballard wants to be able to pay them and continue to grow the camp.

"We need funding, the goal is to get 300 families, whether it may be in Jacksonville or around the United States to get 300 families to donate 300 dollars,"

Ballard says he needs $80 to $90,000 to open more doors for his neighbors on the Northside. Right now he's charging families who have been with the camp since it opened $750 for the summer and other families $1000.

"I really want to be of service to the areas that we are at the families here can't afford to come here at $75 a week or $100 when they have two kids, or maybe they have three kids we have a family that has 10 kids, so we want to be of service," Ballard said. 

The camp started in 2018 as a part of the Taylor Belle Foundation, named after Ballard's daughter who was born with sickle cell disease. 

The foundation's goal is to educate kids in healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise in daily life.

To donate to the camp, you can visit the Taylor Belle Foundation's website.

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