By RYAN LEE, Director, Terasaki Budokan

The long-awaited grand opening of the Terasaki Budokan was set for June 2020 after over 25 years of community planning, dreaming and envisioning. No one could have foreseen that the COVID-19 pandemic would force the delay of the opening of the multipurpose sports and activities center in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. It simply was not safe to have children and adults practicing or playing sports together.

But now, as vaccination rates are on the rise and COVID-19 case numbers are low, we are ready to get back on the courts. We are welcoming the community back to basketball, volleyball, martial arts and more. I feel hopeful now that we are gathering again and I’m so happy to see my athletes returning. Terasaki Budokan is just one part of the story of California slowly reopening and getting back to normal.

But we must not rest on our laurels. I am asking all parents whose kids are 12 and older, and who enjoy playing basketball, volleyball or other youth sports, to please get your children vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are all safe and effective. They truly represent our path to normalcy, such as enjoying sports and other activities. And the CDC recently announced an alarming rate of hospitalizations in youth 12-17 from COVID-19, so the time is now to protect your children from serious illness.

Chloe Yim is given a COVID-19 vaccination on June 5 in Hollywood. (Photo by David Yim)

I know some families have heard misinformation about the vaccines. Some parents are still weighing what for them is a significant decision. To them, I simply say: Talk to your family doctor. Talk to your friends who have been vaccinated. Ask them about why they did it.

I’m sure they will hear many answers that are just like mine: I did it for my family. I did it because vaccines are a critical part of stopping the pandemic. I did it so that all the schools and small businesses in Little Tokyo and across the state can reopen and stay open.

I also did it for your kids. I know how much they have sacrificed during the pandemic. From having to attend school online to missing sleepovers and big games, they had to give up so many activities and special occasions. I also know that being able to take part in sports and getting back together with their friends is so important for their physical and mental health. I know first-hand because I grew up playing basketball.

Californians are doing an amazing job. Our case numbers are lower than ever, and our vaccination rates continue to rise. But getting adolescents vaccinated is the next step in ending the pandemic, and it also ensures that your kids can have a summer and fall that are full of the activities and friendships they miss so much. The more vaccinations that get into the arms of those eligible, the more we stop the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks.

Even better, as a parent, you can rest easy that your vaccinated child is protected against serious COVID infection, hospitalization, and death, which sadly has happened to a few children in our state.

Getting your eligible children vaccinated is safe and easy, and it is free. All information is confidential. Please do your part to protect your child and give them back all the fun activities they love. To find an appointment near you, visit MyTurn.ca.gov. If you don’t have access to the Internet, call the state’s COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255 (833-4CA-4ALL), which offers interpreters for 250+ languages. You can also call your family doctor, local community health clinic or public health office for more information.

Kids can play basketball, volleyball and other youth sports at Terasaki Budokan. (Little Tokyo Service Center)

I’m vaccinated and ready to welcome the community to the Budokan for youth summer camps, ready to have fun and get back to the sports and activities we love. Parents, please help them get ready by getting them vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. And if you need an extra nudge, California’s “Vax for the Win” vaccine incentive program includes dream vacations to be awarded on July 1, and the opportunity to earn gift cards. Full details and eligibility can be found at covid19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win.

Ryan Lee is director of the Terasaki Budokan, located on Los Angeles Street between Second and Third streets. Run by the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Terasaki Budokan complex includes a gym with two basketball courts, which can be transformed into volleyball courts, martial arts dojo, banquet room and other uses. For information on youth sports, visit www.terasakibudokan.org.

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