The Peninsula High School boys basketball team is headed back to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the second straight year to host a free basketball camp for children of military families on Jan. 30.
The Peninsula program will be giving free basketballs and T-shirts to the first 150 children who sign up.
“For three hours, we review our defensive commandments and our offensive fundamentals that we teach our players,” Peninsula coach Jake Jackson said. “It’s about getting them out of their comfort zone, teaching our guys to give back to the men and women that give so much to us by defending our country. The least we can do is go to their base and host a fun, interactive kids basketball camp.”
Last year’s response was a slam-dunk. Jackson’s email inbox and voicemail were flooded with thank-you messages from military families after the event.
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“The response was so positive,” Jackson said. “Again, a lot of those kids don’t have their mom or dad home during the holidays. If we can go provide some light and some fun, I think it’s awesome.”
For the players, it’s a lesson in giving back to those who work tirelessly to defend America.
“It’s very rewarding,” Jackson said. “I told the guys, we’re not going here to get credit or for anyone to write an article. Our goal is to go to the base and spread the passion for basketball, introduce the sport to kids and serve other people. Last year, it had a lot of impact on our guys. They realized that their lives could be so much harder. It was a huge part of our season last year. I think our guys are excited to go back.”
The best part of the event, according to Jackson, is watching the kids wander into the gym, hesitant or timid.
“But when it’s over, the kids don’t want to leave,” Jackson said. “Just seeing all the smiles on the kids’ faces, seeing all the energy in the gym (is the best part). It’s good to connect to a different segment of our community.”