Since the 1970s, through the tireless efforts of an all-volunteer staff, the Pickerington Youth Athletic Association has given thousands of Pickerington area children an opportunity to learn to play an increasing variety of sports.
In recognition of its positive and enduring impact on the community, Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray has chosen the PYAA as grand marshal of the city's Fourth of July Parade.
"We're really excited because it's just very nice to be recognized, but it's the people of Pickerington who have enabled us to succeed at what we do," said Beth Andrews, a PYAA commissioner.
When it was founded, the PYAA sponsored only football, however, the organization has expanded over the years to offer nine other sports: cheerleading, volleyball, softball, golf, lacrosse, baseball, tennis, basketball, bowling.
"All of it is done without any government funding," Andrews said.
"All the money is generated through registration fees and fundraising efforts.
"Even to be able to maintain our complex is really a feat that needs to be commended," she said.
The PYAA complex at 630 Hill Road is one of the few in central Ohio that is entirely maintained by its own organization, Andrews said.
"It's quite an accomplishment for our volunteers," she said, adding the PYAA is seeking ways to make the complex better.
"As a board we have begun to make plans to improve our Hill Road complex, a lot goes into maintaining it," she said.
Future projects there include installing a sewer system, a shelter and nets over the baseball concession stands, she said.
The PYAA also recently expended $45,000 on parking lot improvements and $50,000 to construct a culvert so people can safely get to the back fields, she said.
The organization owns a 32-acre parcel on Milnor Road, which it purchased in 2011.
Andrews said currently there are about 4,000 registrations for all 10 sports.
Coaches and assistants are all non-paid volunteers, donating both their time and expertise to help kids learn each sport while having fun in the process.
Andrews said sponsors have also been instrumental in allowing the PYAA to maintain its programming and infrastructure. Those sponsors include Claypool Electric, Fairfield National Bank, Rutherford Auto and Roosters.
As for the Fourth of July parade, Andrews said "all 10 sports will be represented in some fashion."
Leading the way will be the PYAA lacrosse float featuring the fifth/sixth grade girls lacrosse team, which recently won a 2014 Ohio Cup championship.
Pickerington's July 4th party will kick off at 4 p.m. in Victory Park, located across from City Hall on Lockville Road.
At that time, inflatable amusements, children's amusement rides and festival food is on the agenda.
At 6 p.m. the annual Fourth of July parade will step off from Pickerington High School Central, 300 Opportunity Way.
The parade will travel north on Lockville Road, east on Columbus Street and south on Hill Road. It will conclude at Ridgeview Junior High School.
Opening ceremonies start at 7:30 p.m., followed by a concert at 8 p.m. by Hotel California, a nationally-acclaimed Eagles tribute band.
At 10 p.m., fireworks, made possible through the joint financial efforts of the city of Pickerington and Violet Township, will be launched.
Hotel California will then re-take the main stage at 10:30 p.m. for a post-fireworks concert.
At 11 p.m. the festival will close.
Admission to the Pickerington Fourth of July celebration is free and visitors are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs.