ALBANY, Ga. -- While the Exchange Club of Albany fights child abuse with donations, scholarships and other support, it doesn't ignore the character-building aspects of school sports.
"We are really interested in school sports," said Bill Alford, an Exchangite. "The more opportunities for athletics, the better the city is for kids."
About 100 club members met for their usual Friday lunch and heard a rundown of planned improvements for the Dougherty County School System's athletic programs this fall from Johnny Seabrooks, the system's director of athletics.
"If students are out for sports," Seabrooks said, "parents know where they are and what they are doing,"
Seabrooks outlined the precautions taken for football practice in the blistering heat, training student aides and the plans for Hugh Mills Stadium.
With temperatures moving into triple digits, when the heat index hits 105 practices outside are called off, Seabrooks said. Many other places wait until the index reaches 116, he added.
Water breaks are required by the DCSS board to be given every 20 minutes. Heat illness is the most preventable health issue in sports, Seabrooks said.
"All the fields have lights," Seabrooks said. "When it gets to be about 7 p.m. and it cools off, they can practice."
Student aides are planned to be at practices and games, Seabrooks said. These students have training in CPR and in recognizing the symptoms of a concussion, among other health training to help with safety of athletes.
Improvements to Hugh Mills Stadium that are planned include video boards on scoreboards with a timing system for track and artificial turf.
Mentioning "AstroTurf," a brand name for artificial turf, brought questions about safety from the Exchangites.
Seabrooks assured the club members that advances in the design and manufacturing of artificial turf have come a long way. The turf allows for free movement of runners' feet when they turn instead of catching their feet and allowing an ankle to twist.
With the cost of maintaining real grass, drainage and other problems, the installation of artificial turf would be a good move for the stadium, Seabrooks said.
"I understand that the new type of artificial grass would extend the life of the field," said Jerry Clack, an Exchangite. "If you play one game a week, the grass can come back. But they play three games a week. In the long run, it will pay off."
In other club business, Larry Scully, last year's club president, was recognized for his contributions to the club nationally.
"This honor is recognition of the club, recognition of you," Scully said on receiving a plaque.
The club was also one of 23 clubs in the nation out of more than 250 to receive a "Big E" award from the national headquarters for its community service.