Golden Kings make appearance at first annual Kadena EFMP basketball camp

by Reece Churilla
Kadena Force Support Squadron

Sixty kids participated in Kadena’s first annual Camp BallAZ, a three-day summer basketball camp hosted by the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for children from all branches of service. This camp, designed to teach the fundamentals of the sport to special needs children, was offered through the Airman & Family Readiness Center (A&FRC).

From July 23-25, the free camp exposed kids to basketball drills and team-building exercises, concluding with a special appearance by Assistant Coach Keith Richardson and two guards from the Ryukyu Golden Kings, Ryuichi Kishimoto and Narito Namizato, at the Kadena Middle School gymnasium.

“On top of teaching basketball fundamentals, we wanted to help kids take pride in sports,” said EFMPS-FS Coordinator Anette Mabry. “The counselors we recruited are basketball players from all branches of military who play on squadron teams. We ran stations constantly to instruct proper dribbling, passing, shooting, ball handling, and feet movement. We even had someone come in and teach Zumba to help the kids build motor development skills.”

At completion of the camp, participants were pitted against the Golden Kings trio in a brief basketball game followed by a round of eager autographs. Though the camp had just ended, the gym was full of smiles.

“This is my seventh year as assistant coach, and this is the first time we’ve participated in a basketball camp on Kadena,” said Richardson. “First and foremost, we are a part of the community and we want to be involved as much as possible. We’ve done a lot more work within the base as far as publicity and advertisement, and now we’re just trying to put a face with a name. But it’s more about giving back to the community than anything.”

Originally slotted for 40 participants, volunteers offered additional support and space opened for 20 more kids.  A&FRC’s partnership with sister services was key to having these additional volunteers and helped make this camp  a tremendous hit for both kids and parents.

“We got (additional participants) in and even made our own T-shirts,” said Mabry. “We’re catching a lot of kids who are not in the School Age Program (SAP) or traveling off-island and they need stuff to do. This was for them, and it really worked out well.”

The EFMP’s basketball camp will continue next summer 2015.

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