Annual free basketball camp about more than rebounds

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Photo by Erika Fleegle

Jakim Donaldson (right) and his father, Jay (left), pose with youth July 29 during the annual Protecting and Restoring the Order of Mankind with the Initiative of Serving Elders (P.R.O.M.I.S.E.) camp at the former Oliver High School on Brighton Road.

By Erika Fleegle

In the middle of summer, most schools are silent; no students roaming the halls listening to ghost teachers give hollow lectures. But recently, the gymnasium of the former Oliver High School on Brighton Road is filled with the sounds of screeching sneakers and thumping basketballs.  But it’s that time of year again when native son Jakim Donaldson hosts his annual free basketball camp.

In its fifth year, the Protecting and Restoring the Order of Mankind with the Initiative of Serving Elders (P.R.O.M.I.S.E.) camp, which runs July 29-31, aims to get local youth off the streets and onto the court by improving their basketball skills, while teaching them important life lessons.

“I encouraged him to do a camp because no one’s doing anything like it on the Northside,” Jay Donaldson, Jakim’s father, said.

The three-day camp follows a basic schedule of basketball fundamentals and more complex moves, like rebounding and jump shots. The overall goal, however, is teamwork.

“We also have guest speakers come in and talk to the kids,” Jay said.

The speakers range from school principals to ex-convicts, each with a unique story to tell about academic success and maintaining a positive direction in life.

The experience is perhaps even more rewarding for Jakim, who just wrapped up his 10 year playing basketball abroad for Iberostar Canarias of the Spanish ACB League.

“There’s more pressure to perform, there’s a higher expectation,” he said of his experience playing in Europe. “But it’s fun when you’re traveling.”

On the court, Jakim serves both as a coach and counselor, helping kids with their passes while being a positive influence.

“We want to teach them that this is bigger than basketball,” he said. “We’re trying to teach them about life in general. Life is so much bigger than what you see in Pittsburgh. So many different things can open a lot more doors if you’re just passionate about it and put your all into it and trust your abilities.”

For Jakim, the greatest reward is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and seeing the improvement they make over the span of the program, whether it’s three days or three years.

Volunteers for the P.R.O.M.I.S.E group have also noticed the impact the program has made on local youth.

“I love seeing how the youth appreciate it,” Ebony Hubbard, the organization’s secretary, said. “It’s nice to see them playing, not sitting inside with a video game.”

When it comes to the current and future success of the basketball camp, the Donaldsons are hopeful.

“It’s gotten better and better every year,” Jay said. “Lots of coaches return, most of the students return. We watch them grow out of the program. Some of them have gone on to college to play basketball.”

But in the end, it’s all about the kids learning, growing and having fun.

“When they leave, we see that hope in their eye,” Jay noted. “We see that there’s more determination.”

Donaldson2mail.google.comPhoto by Erika Fleegle

Jakim Donaldson (center) demonstrates a drill July 29 during the annual Protecting and Restoring the Order of Mankind with the Initiative of Serving Elders (P.R.O.M.I.S.E.) camp at the former Oliver High School on Brighton Road.

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