By Solomon Collins
Early Bird Basketball hosted its annual summer basketball clinic over the weekend. On Saturday, July 16, groups of third graders and high school athletes visited Smith Park to do drills and compete on different teams.
Timothy Evans, the head coach of the program, said the free camp is solely for inner city Toledo youth. “In the area, they usually don’t have opportunities to go to a free camp, so we’re here for the community, “ he said.
The age range of the event’s players is from 3rd graders to 12th graders, and the demand for the program has kept it going.
“This is our 7th season that I took it over,” Evans said. “There was a need for it to comeback, so we decided to bring it back and revitalized it,” he said.
Besides increased memberships, the results of the program have been two-fold. To Evans, the event’s effect on children means the most.
“It means a lot to me,” he said, “because the kids look forward to doin’ it each Saturday morning.”
“Just to see the look in their eyes of being out here and learning something and being apart of something – it’s just awesome,” Evans said.
Volunteers Sheryl Bennett and Kimberly Evans also said the event has effected Toledo youth greatly. Bennett, a grand mother to a player in the event, said she thinks the event will help her grandson improve his skills.
“I think it’s going to have a good effect on him,” she said, “the older boys can show him some different things and different skills to help him better himself in basketball.”
Kimberly Evans, sister to Coach Evans, has volunteered for the event the past 8 years. Evans said she likes the event because it lets adults “meet new people.”
“It’s great for me, because I get to chit-chat with the ladies, and I get to meet new people as well,” she said.
Evans, whose sons play for Coach Evans’ team, said the event helps bring “a lot of neighborhood and other kids” together. Early Bird’s founder, Ben Williams, also said the event helps different ages of children interact and have positive influences.
While the program started for “elementary and junior high school” students, Williams said that Early Bird has, “college players from all over that come and volunteer,” that help younger players develop.
“Most youngsters that live in areas like this, didn’t get a chance to go to organized camps because they were mainly paid camps,” he said. “We decided to make the sacrifice to organize some – thing high quality for our young people, so they could experience an organized camp.
For the future, Will i a m s said that the program will keep its main goal of giving kids quality and care. “Whatever program you start with kids, you’ve got to make sure its quality and highly humanistic where the kids would feel that you really care for them. I think that’s the most important thing,” he said.