Basketball skills camp also blends in ‘FACTs’ of life

Published 12:05 am Thursday, July 21, 2016

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — More than 100 kids have taken to the court — and the classroom of life — this week at the FACT Skills and Drill Basketball Camp, being held at New Trent Gymnasium on the campus of Livingstone College.

The participants, ages 9-15, attend the free camp from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through Friday, and mixed in with the drills trying to improve their basketball prowess are classroom discussions on things ranging from health and fitness to staying away from drugs and alcohol.

The program also offers a free lunch to the campers.

DeCarlo Duling has served as the camp director this week, and he played a significant role in lining up all the coaches and guest speakers.

Speakers Wednesday included Edna Gillespie, a nurse who spoke to the campers about physical fitness and nutrition; and Jerry Dean, an Alcohol Law Enforcement agent in Charlotte, who laid out the dangers of drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

“Once you start drinking alcohol,” said Dean, whose visit was supported by Game Plan for Life, “you no longer make rational decisions. … Don’t let a bad decision be the last decision you ever make.”

Kids who heard the message received a Game Plan for Life bracelet, which included the slogan “Decisions=Destiny.” Dean gave his class an example of one 18-year-old whose underage drinking led to a fatal accident, his conviction for second-degree murder and a prison sentence of more than 15 years.

“Pretty young to be going to prison, isn’t it, for one bad decision?” Dean asked.

Rosalind O. Mitchell, secretary for FACT — Families and Communities Together — said camp participation is way up this summer, from about 40 children in 2015. The kids seem to be “from all over the county,” Mitchell said, Some campers actually are residents of Ohio and Charlotte who are visiting relatives here.

This is the fifth annual camp.

Moore’s Chapel and Soldiers Memorial AME Zion churches founded FACT several years ago as a way to provide educational programming and improve the quality of life for residents of Zion Hills Apartments, which are owned by the two churches.

According to a FACT brochure, the program focuses on the whole family, emphasizing spirituality, education, recreation, mentoring and job preparation.

This summer, FACT has sponsored a Sports Night Out June 11, which invited families to enjoy food and outdoor games on the front lawn of Livingstone College; a School/U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Lunch Program, which extends into August at Zion Hills Apartments; and a reading, music and creative expression camp, which was held June 27-July 1 at Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church.

Javon Hargrave, a star football player at North Rowan High and South Carolina State University and a recent draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be meeting with the camp participants and signing autographs from 5-8 p.m. Friday at Bounce City.

Other adults who have taken part in the camp so far this week have included Andrew Mitchell, head coach of the boys basketball team at North Rowan High School; Brian Withers, head coach of the boys team at Salisbury High; Lakai Brice, girls coach at Salisbury High; Rex Boner, a volunteer and former player and recent transplant to Salisbury from Indiana; Sierra Charles, a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Herbert Chambers, chairman of the board for Zion Hills Apartments; coach Tim Bates; Wendy Jackson, a recent graduate of Livingstone College, where she played basketball; Wayne “Greyhound” Brown; and Kayla Caldwell, a rising junior at Salisbury High.

“This is a great effort here,” Boner said of the free camp sponsored by the two churches. “… They’re good kids, and they’re getting adult attention outside the home.”

Other speakers have included Bates, of the Man Up Mondays program; Courtney Sawyer, of the Woman Up Wednesdays group; Livingstone College President Jimmy Jenkins; Durwood Bynum, wrestling coach at West Rowan High; and Kevin McClain and Sheraid Wilkes of the Think Smart program, which brought in prison inmates to talk with the children about bad decisions they had made in the past.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.