Blog Post

Celebrating One Year of Breaking Barriers to Play

Posted on June 13, 2023

Every kid should have access to play, which is why Advancing Macomb launched Breaking Barriers to Play. The program levels the playing field and makes recreation accessible and affordable to youth and families in underserved communities in Macomb County. As the program approaches its first anniversary, let’s look at how it started and a few successes over the past year.

Breaking Barriers to Play launched in July 2022 with the Michigan Monsters Youth Summer Basketball Camp, a two-week camp at the Cairn’s Community Center in Mount Clemens. Registration was free to all participants and included daily breakfast, lunch and snacks at no cost. The response was overwhelming, with nearly 100 kids participating and many community members stepping up to help make it a success.

Today, nearly one year later, 600 kids have participated in camps and leagues provided by Breaking Barriers to Play. A bowling program, futsal league, bitty basketball program and a partnership with the Macomb County Cougars for a basketball camp were introduced in the first few months of 2023. More recently, floor hockey, girls’ volleyball, soccer skills and drills have also been introduced. Most participants have never participated in organized youth sports and come from underserved communities.

The quality of coaching also sets Breaking Barriers to Play apart. Coaches are paid professionals and not volunteers. They are required to complete a program that teaches compassionate coaching, which helps coaches learn how to coach the player, not just the sport. Breaking Barriers to Play believes coaches need to be empathetic towards their players and equipped with communication skills that build confidence. Coaches also receive emergency training for working with children.

Others in the region are noticing the program’s impact and success. Thomas (“Tommy”) Barnes is the program manager who oversees operations for Breaking Barriers to Play. He was recently selected to represent Macomb County on the Project Play Coalition for Southeast Michigan. He was the only representative from Macomb County chosen to serve.

Over the last year, Breaking Barriers to Play has expanded beyond Mount Clemens to serve youth in the City of Fraser. Programming will also be offered to students in the Clintondale Community School District in the fall of 2023.

Looking ahead, Breaking Barriers to Play aims to increase its footprint and impact throughout Macomb County. Funding is critical to making this happen. In December 2022, Breaking Barriers to Play received a grant from The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan and the William Davidson Foundation to help expand the program’s reach.

If you’d like to get involved or would like additional information, please reach out to us at

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