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Logansport native brings communities together via mentorship, basketball

Sep. 2—Antonio Penny doesn't see fathers hugging their sons as much as their daughters. He's trying to do something to change that.

He's organized a formal event, titled the Father & Son Ballout, hoping to unify fathers (or father figures) and their sons. The ball is scheduled for Oct. 7.

It will be held in The Connection, 2900 E. Markland Ave., in Kokomo. Tickets can be purchased online at thepennyway.com.

"All these fathers go to the daddy daughter dance, right?" Penny said. "Everyone always says 'we've got to hug our daughters. We've got to make sure our daughters aren't being preyed on out here in this world,' when realistically, the sons don't have as much guidance."

Penny added he hopes the unification of fathers and sons will help reduce violence among younger generations and bring communities together.

The event will include a guest speaker, a meal and bonding activities, like a questionnaire fathers and sons can fill out together.

There will be dancing, too, which Penny said could lead to humorous moments.

"Our dances may be from the '90s versus they're going to be doing all these Fortnite dances and we can't keep up," Penny said.

The Father & Son Ball comes as Penny looks to expand his foundation's services. He said he would like to start offering more community events and mentorship opportunities.

The Penny Way began as a basketball camp in Indianapolis, where Penny witnessed a gap between fathers and sons, as well as between sports and behavior.

His siblings, mother, uncle and girlfriend each play a key role in The Penny Way.

He wanted to see if the gaps still existed in smaller communities, so he visited his hometown of Logansport. While the generational and behavioral gaps still existed in Logansport, Penny said, it wasn't as bad.

"You've got a lot more structure ... you've a lot more responsibility. They're teaching the right things, accountability and stuff like that," Penny said.

When the camp started back up, he taught the children to focus on accountability, responsibility and discipline before focusing on sports.

Penny explained he first decided to become a mentor during college. He developed leadership skills as a point guard on Stillman College's team. His coach, Dante Jackson, would often ask him what his "why" was — what he was passionate about and what he wanted to accomplish.

Penny said he didn't quite figure it out until he graduated.

"I think my 'why' is that I can use my leadership skills to bring these back to the communities where I grew up in and raise these other youth kids up to be leaders," Penny said. "That was my biggest passion."

His passion led him to step away from notable positions. He was a graduate assistant coach for the division one basketball team at Grambling State University. He also served as athletic director at GEO Next Generation High School.

"Positions people dream of: assistant coach, college level, D1; the highest level you can be on," Penny said.

Still, he realized it wasn't the work he wanted to do.

"I kind of want to mentor. I kind of want to be a volunteer. I kind of want to bring positivity to the communities and the youth," Penny said.

The coach said social emotional learning skills are at the base of his organization's work. He uses basketball as a tool to get children in the door. Before anyone even touches a ball at the camp, Penny asks the children to define things like accountability and confidence. Regardless of whether the students have an answer, he dives into each topic.

Confidence, he noted, is one of the most important aspects to instill in his students.

He also likes to bring in guest speakers, like Dr. Greg Bell, a Logansport resident who won the 1956 Olympic gold medal in the long jump, to speak to the students.

"Basketball is so important to us. It's not the most important thing," Penny said of his organization's shift to include community events. He also said he was unsure if he would have been able to afford two masters degrees without the sport.

"One day that ball will stop bouncing, and then you're going to have to find something else to do. What is it?" Penny asked. "I found what I want to do."

James Bennett III can be reached at 765-454-8580 or james.bennett@kokomotribune.com.