An NBA player returned to his hometown of Racine to help reopen a community center that played a big role in his childhood.
Caron Butler says the Bray Center, located at 924 Center St., helped him avoid a life of crime and learn how to play basketball.
With Butler's help, it reopened Thursday as the George Bray Neighborhood YMCA.
As a child growing up in Racine, Butler says he would come to the Bray Center for holidays, to eat free lunch and to play basketball.
"It got my career started, he said. "This is where I honed my skills at. I learned how to perform in front of big rowdy crowds."
He lived just two miles from the center, and says it also helped him turn his life around after he admittedly got involved in crime at a young age.
"The center took me away from the streets," said Butler. "When I got out of school from 3-8 the community center was always open, and you had guys in here that were considered role models, that talked to us about the importance of staying off the streets."
The center closed last year due to financial reasons. Butler says he learned about it closing on social media.
"I pulled together all my friends and resources that I had and collectively we came up with a plan," he said.
Now the center has reopened under the YMCA's leadership.
"It's so gratifying for us, and we will do the absolute best we can do to make him proud of us," said Jeff Collen, the CEO of the YMCA.
Collen says within a few weeks, they will begin transferring programs and resources to the George Bray Neighborhood YMCA.
Butler says he will do whatever he can to keep the center thriving.
"We're in trying times right now in America in general," he said. "We trying to keep everybody together, try to pull together, bring resources to the community so we can help people out."
Butler lives in LA now, but says he still has a home in Racine and visits his family every summer.
He began his NBA career in 2002 with the Miami Heat. He also played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013-2014 season.
He is now a free agent after playing for the Sacramento Kings last season.
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