By CBC News |

Running onto the basketball court, high-fiving fans — for a moment, a group of Milton youth are made to feel like basketball stars.

But this isn’t the NBA. Instead, it’s a volunteer-run non-profit youth sports league — about a 40-minute drive from Toronto — as a way of helping immigrant families to put their children into sport.

The Milton Youth Recreation Centre began five years ago with about 30 participants. Today, the league has grown to about 200 players. Many of the youth involved are Muslim, but all backgrounds and religions are welcome.

“We see those children who start with zero confidence coming into the league scared to touch a ball, scared to talk to people, and then by the end of the season you see a different personality,” said Imran Merchant, the centre’s executive director.

This is also the first year that the centre has an all-girls league.

The organization is also working with Hijabi Ballers, a Toronto-based group that inspired the Maple Leafs Sports League to create Nike Pro hijabs emblazoned with the Toronto Raptors’ team logo.

At the league’s fifth season opener on Saturday, each of the girls received one of the Raptors-themed hijabs, a welcome surprise to many.

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