PATERSON, NJ - Paterson resident John Benjamin is tired of the violence, drugs, and other “negative elements” the city’s children are facing. “I can’t sit idly by and just let this happen,” he told TAPinto Paterson. 

“All I can give is my talent.”

Benjamin’s talent is basketball, and for the past 36 years he’s been sharing that talent with at risk youth by putting on clinics, that double as mentoring sessions, through his non-profit, Nooney’s Gang.

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More than 30 children gathered at the Martin Luther King School on Saturday for Nooney’s Gang’s most recent event. While it wasn’t the most students they’ve hosted, the time the children spent together running drills, participating in skills competitions, and celebrating with an awards ceremony, Benjamin said, was as impactful as ever.

“We let the children know that there are people that care about them,” Benjamin said. “We want them to know there are options for them to turn away from the negativity.”

Included in the adults that stopped by to spend time with the participants was Andre Sayegh whom Benjamin referred to as the “everywhere mayor.”

“Past administrations have failed our children,” Benjamin lamented, adding that while he didn’t know Sayegh planned on stopping by he wasn’t entirely surprised. “He’s very hands on, he’s here for everybody, it’s really a beautiful thing.”

“The work of Nooney’s Gang show the very best of Paterson,” Sayegh said. “I was inspired by being there and know that the positivity in the gym on Saturday will have a lasting impact on the young athletes that participated.

While Benjamin’s skills, dating back to his days as a child, and up through a college career at Rutgers University, are with the basketball his counterpart, Pamela White, puts her work into action off the court by helping to manage the mentoring component.

Saying that they’ve had guest speakers including lawyers and business people in the past, White reflected that at the most recent clinic it was the parents and coaches that did the talking. “We help with the issues they are facing, offer them a road to success.”

“We want them to know that they can do, and be, anything they want to be.”

Benjamin said they are planning event for March.

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