JAY — In the beginning, it was just football.

David Labbe, 80, of Jay is the last surviving founder of the Area Youth Sports program that has served hundreds of children since it was started in the late 1960s. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

David Labbe, 80, remembers how it all started.

He is the last surviving original founder of the seven members who began the Area Youth Sports organization in the late 1960s. He has since retired.

Hundreds of children from Fayette, Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls have participated in the program, incorporated in 1969.

It was all volunteer, including coaches and the referees, Labbe said. Originally, there were football players and there were cheerleaders who cheered them on.

The organization’s programs grew as the years went by. The number of sports offerings have increased to more than a dozen. It is now based at the former Livermore Falls High School.

The other original founders were Roland Ouellette, Don LeSuer, Joe Grimaldi, Joe Nemi, Angelo DiSotto and George White.

They were members of the Jay Boosters Club, which supported high school sports and activities in town at the time, Labbe said.

The VFW Post 3335 in Jay let the founders use their hall for meetings. The late Edward Cloutier, a lawyer, did the organization’s legal work

“That’s how we started,” Labbe said.

Organizers went to the former Joseph’s Clothing and Sporting Goods store in Fairfield to get the football gear for the four teams that were organized. Practices were started and games were held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

“I always remember Roland Ouellette sat at the top of the high school hill collecting donations,”  Labbe said.

Eventually the sports group was asked if they would take over the youth baseball program.

“Roland took care of that and ran it very faithfully,” he said.

Joe Nemi did all of the publicity including baseball programs. Merchants in the area were also very generous with money, food and buying ads, which helped keep the program going.

Volunteers ran a concession “shack” to also support the program.

The programs expanded to include softball, then basketball. Boxing was added but only lasted for about three to four years.

“Don and Joe did a great job running it,” he said.

The group also started an elementary sports program for younger children.

“It was so boys and girls could have a chance to participate,” Labbe said.

Back then, there was a rivalry between Jay and Livermore Falls high schools when it came to athletics.

Football players at the “high school level fought like hell on the field but after the games they were all friendly because they played together in AYS,” he said.

Volunteers and businesses worked together to help Area Youth Sports succeed, Labbe said.

“I just think when you get all of these people who volunteered and did what they did, and all of the merchants who did what they did, you see what you can accomplish,” Labbe said.

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