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Teen Turf supporting the growth of kids for 25 years

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AMBOY (WREX) — It all started 25 years ago in a church hall in Amboy, Illinois.

The hall was used to organize dances for people in the community, but it didn't take long before a new venue was needed.

After a couple of years, Eileen Piper, one of the organizers of the group, found out about a potential new spot.

"We were looking for a place and there was a sign in the window saying the building was for sale,"Piper said.

The building was at 235 West Main Street.

A place Piper's group has called home for the last 22 years.

The events at the building span far beyond dances nowadays.

It has become a headquarters for kids in the Amboy area to hang out after school.

After this new identity started to take shape, the group found a new name from an unlikely source.

"My perish priest came down while we were having a meeting and the kids were voting on what we would call ourselves," Piper said.

"He said, 'Well what do you need a name for? I thought it was Teen Turf?' When he left, the kids said, 'That sounds great.'"

So Teen Turf was born.

Everyday, kids go from the classroom straight to West Main Street.

Once they get there, after a quick snack, young kids and teens alike take to the play area.

Everything from dodgeball and basketball to pool and foosball makes for nonstop activity.

It's a great way for the kids to blow off steam after being at school all day.

"I look forward to the end of the day to be able to come hang out with my friends after school because some of them don't live in town," Alexis Cheever said.

There is no shortage of laughter and fun every day at Teen Turf

That is until 4 o'clock rolls around, then the mood changes.

The play area empties, the building goes silent, and attention turns to homework.

It's appropriately called "Quiet Time" which is the period Teen Turf sets aside to have kids focus on anything they need to get done for school the next day.

The study session is something kids seem to appreciate just as much as play time.

"It's awesome to have a place to do your homework. A lot of teenagers help us here," Kayla Oury said.

"I feel really blessed that I can come here and get good grades because of Teen Turf."

The mix of work and place is nice for the kids because they feel it provides an environment to better focus on what they need to do.

"It's good to come here because you might have distractions at home where you can't really get your homework done," Hunter Spiegel said.

Teen Turf is not just about the kids either.

Those who volunteer with the group get a lot of it as well.

No matter how long they have helped with the group, those that do take a sense of pride in helping their community.

"I've helped out for 2-3 years now. I love helping kids with reading and vocab," Megan Cheatham said.

It's the support from volunteers and the rest of the community that Teen Turf couldn't do without.

All of the games in the play area, computers for their study lab, nearly everything they have is a result of kindness from people in town.

"It's a place to help people when they need it and I have been blessed to be able to be a part of that," Piper said.

"We are all in this world trying to make each other better and they make us better as adults. I get inspired by them and the things they do and the things they say."

Teen Turf isn't confined to just Amboy.

The group makes trips throughout the stateline for their kids to see what else is out in our area.

To learn more about Teen Turf and how they are impacting our community, click here

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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