Among area youth basketball leagues, it's likely none is more appropriately named.

Among area youth basketball leagues, it's likely none is more appropriately named.

The Civic Park Friendly Basketball League emphasizes community service, not competition.

The players, who are 6 to 18 years old, don't earn their spot in the summer league by practicing well or through their stature. Instead, they are allowed to play after performing community service.

Coaches and players clean up more than two miles of land alongside Lancaster Avenue, picking up trash while walking from Reynoldsburg City Hall to Civic Park. The kids then stretch and play basketball for four hours on two outdoor courts at the park.

Players also have an hour of Bible study during the week.

The man who makes this happen is the Rev. David Akers, whose main goal is rooted in his slogan for the league: "Give love and hope and watch it grow."

Akers said he is teaching the players about "taking responsibility for each other," and they learn quickly.

On June 1, the league's opening day featuring games and pictures, "We told (the players) to be at City Hall at 8 a.m. to clean up our land, and they were all there," Akers said. "How about that?"

The league has 50 players making up eight teams. There are two children from Columbus and the others are from Reynoldsburg.

Akers said interest was so high this year that some prospective players had to be turned away because of funding issues and availability of facilities.

Funding from organizations such as Friendship Baptist Church of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club and the Reynoldsburg-Pickerington Rotary Club has allowed Akers to purchase scoreboards, referee uniforms (the coaches serve as officials), two new basketballs and food for the players during each day of community service and play.

On June 15, the best players in the league received the opportunity to play against Reynoldsburg city officials.

After the season, an awards ceremony will be held in August, during which each player will receive a trophy for efforts on and off the court.

Later in August, a trip to the Fort Rapids indoor water park is scheduled.

Helping Akers off the court with fundraising and logistics is Sandy House, who also has two children in the program.

"We just want the kids to come out and have a good time," House said.

"(Akers) is trying to allow them to have a positive outlook on life. (Akers) is trying to give them order and structure and learn how to work together, even with your enemies."

The 14-year-old league took a hiatus last summer as Akers underwent chemotherapy and other treatments for prostate cancer, which he fought for two years and said is in remission.

Coaches Marvin Wilson and Sam Beal complete the on-court staff.

"What got me here is the love of the game of basketball, getting to know these kids better and showing them how to be well-disciplined on and off the court," said Beal, 20, who has been with the program for three years as a player and coach and attends Columbus State Community College. "What keeps me coming here (every year) is the passion of sharing my goals on getting these kids better (on and off the court)."

Akers' wife, Karen, also helps out, feeding and hydrating the players while making sure they stay upbeat.

One of the players, 11-year-old Lydia Moore, said she loves playing basketball and making a difference in her community.

"I think it was really nice, because we were the only people who cleaned up the whole Reynoldsburg park," she said.