Above: Jakim Donaldson plays as professional basketball player in Europe, but returned to his home on the Northside to host a free basktball camp for the second year in a row. (Photo by Kelsey Shea).

Layups and free throws were not the only focus at PROMISE’s second annual basketball camp this week. Camp directors held leadership, sportsmanship and honesty as priorities in player development.

Organizers saw 100 participants between the ages of 8 to 18, both boys and girls, at Perry High School in Observatory Hill this week, who attended the free camp.

Jay Donaldson, founder of PROMISE, the Northside organization dedicated to helping families that have lost loved ones to violence, views the free camp as an opportunity to teach Pittsburgh youth the importance of team work among other things.

“We focus on teaching them daily responsibility. We hold them to a strict schedule and expect them to respect the coaches and their teammates equally,” said Donaldson.

Jay’s son Jakim Donaldson, coaches the camp along with 15 to 20 other athletes with experience in collegiate athletics, professional athletics, or both.

Jakim recently received his third MVP title in the Liga Espanola de Baloncesto Gold League, which earned him a promotion to the Asociacion de Clubs de Baloncesto in Spain, which is the best basketball league in Europe and the second in the world said Jakim.

He returns to Pittsburgh with enthusiasm for the camp.

Like Jay Donaldson, Jakim puts high importance on the invaluable lessons that athletics can teach its participants.

To reinforce the off-the-court lessons, PROMISE plans to bring several guest speakers to the camp. Among the speakers, are Jason Rivers, a Pittsburgh resident whose brother was fatally wounded in Garfield, as well as ex-inmates from the county prison, said Jakim Donaldson.

“We want to show the kids what different kinds of obstacles they can face in life, and how to avoid mistakes.”

The 100 campers spent Wednesday through Friday getting to know their coaches and working together, completely together.

Though the camp participants split into separate age groups, Jay Donaldson says gender is not considered.

“We find it’s easier and just as competitive to allow the boys and girls to play together. We find both groups benefit from the co-ed aspect. You know, girls at this age are just as tough and just as skillful,” said Donaldson.

As for the future, the Donaldson’s hope to expand the camp to more days and more kids.

In addition, he explained that obtaining corporate sponsorship will be a must. This year’s sponsors include local businesses as well as local neighborhood development organizations, including: the Northside Leadership Conference, the Trevor James Experience and Quick It, among others.

Other support comes in the form of return campers.

Jill Silver is sending her two sons, Cameron, 13 and Kendall, 15, to camp for the second year in a row.

“Jakim is a great role model for the kids, and shows them how important it is to give back to the community,” said Silver. “And my boys both get a lot out of the skill development the camp offers.”

Jakim says the camp will be around for a while, hopefully positively impacting the Northside and perhaps the entire tri-state area.

“We are molding leaders for the next generation. We teach them if they dream and believe, then they most definitely can succeed,” he said. “Sometimes all that young people see is the bad. We are here to show them the good exists as well.