HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — It started with helping children in the community play basketball, but over the last 16 years, a nonprofit called D-UP has evolved.

Children need to play defense not only on the hardwood but also in their daily lives. So, the organization now arms kids as young as four years old with the tools they need to not only play defense against life’s hardships but to thrive and grow. 

Inside the small building on Washington Street in High Point, you’ll find big dreams and an even bigger goal.

“We’re removing stigma, and our programs are absolutely free because of the funding we receive, and it’s not only for the youth that attend our programs but also for their families,” said Jakki Davis, co-founder and executive director of D-UP. 

It offers 16 different programs that are all designed to get families moving, learning and preparing to cope with whatever the future may bring. A grant from the Community Foundation of High Point helps fund one of the programs called “Well Centered Me.” It promotes mental, social and emotional well-being, and it helps empower people who survive trauma. 

Davis says, in a post-COVID world, that’s more important than ever before. 

“I think it’s important that we not have that stigma that is mental illness,” she said. “‘No, I don’t want to talk about my mental health, I don’t want to talk about mental wellness’ because social media and, again, traumatic experiences, the violence that we have, racial discrimination, all of that plays into who we are, and we just need sometimes someplace to land, a safe place, and that’s what we have here at D-UP.”

Children have a secure space to draw pictures, plant vegetables, do yoga, cook meals and even try dance. Princess Johnson with Royal Expressions Contemporary Ballet says, at first, the kids at D-UP feel like dance is a foreign language, but once they get moving, it weaves a story that will enrich their lives. 

“I hope that through dance classes they will learn to be in tune with their bodies and know when there’s something wrong and know whenever it’s time for them to work on something physically or mentally or emotionally,” said Johnson. “All of those things impact how our bodies feel and our health and wealth.”

D-UP also has a program that focuses on the mental and physical well-being of women. It’s something Davis says is too often ignored. 

“The Women’s Wellness program is about finding that mental health, that self-care that most women you know neglect,” Davis said. “We’re going to kind of take care of everybody else, but when it comes to ourselves, we neglect to do that, so the women’s wellness program gives us the opportunity to teach women how to take time for yourself, because if you’re not healthy, it’s hard for you to care for others. “

Participants like Odaray Mora-Morejon say the program has taught them the importance of self-care through a variety of activities. 

“Every time you come, it’s something new. It’s something that you may not have had the opportunity to do if you didn’t come participate, like the lotion making,” Mora-Morejon said. “I know one was very special, the charcuterie board, something that you don’t often think about that would put you in a better mood as you go about your life for the rest of the week.”

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Davis says we may not realize it, but it’s those little things that add up day after day to help us improve long-term mental wellness. That’s why Children at D-UP have to do an emotional check-in every day they visit because Davis says, “We want to know, ‘How did your day go? What happened?’ It’s very hard for kids sometimes to tell you what’s wrong, but they can definitely tell you what happened.”

Davis says the ultimate goal is to help everyone learn coping strategies regardless of what life brings. She says when children receive those tools at a young age, they’re prepared to take control of their lives as they get older.

If you’d like more information, visit D-Up website.