And just like that the final buzzer went off in Detroit and the last day of PeacePlayers US Virtual Summer Camp came to a close. Five days. Five different cities. One unforgettable week. PeacePlayers typically hosts summer camps and programming in each of our five US Sites (Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles), but due to COVID-19, PeacePlayers hosted its first ever Virtual Summer Camp instead.
Conducting a virtual basketball camp would not have been our first choice, but we quickly realized that we had opportunities in the virtual space that would be nearly impossible in person. The week of camp included celebrity guests, connecting youth from across the country and around the world, a peek inside the uniqueness of each of our program cities, and content specialists from around the country who hosted a wide range of sessions.
In Chicago on Monday, Scoop Jackson kicked us off followed by NBA player Mike Muscala and near the end of the day Arnie Duncan, former US Secretary of Education, joined for a live Q and A, discussing his basketball experiences and his current work in Chicago to end gun violence. In LA on Tuesday, two LA Sparks players took our kids through a speed and agility workout. Wednesday in Brooklyn included a former Harlem Globetrotter working with the campers on their basketball handles. Josh Okogie from the Minnesota Timberwolves joined Baltimore on Thursday sharing his experiences growing up, playing basketball and his current time in the NBA. On Friday we wrapped up in Detroit with a special tour around Detroit’s most iconic restaurants.
Nike, a key partner of PeacePlayers United States, hosted two different shoe design sessions where their shoe designers shared the process for designing a shoe and then provided the space for youth to create a unique design of their own. Each camper shared their creative design. One of the designs by Promise Yates was so powerful because of the meaning behind her art. She wrote of her design:
“A young, biracial, female athlete–I have struggled to prove myself in the classroom and on the playground. I have been teased and bullied by students and staff. I have been called names. Tomboy by some and that I wasn’t good enough by others. I have persevered, practiced, and continue to work hard to improve my skills both on and off the basketball court–NEVER giving up.”
Every aspect of Promise’s shoe told a story. The colors: black, white, and gray to represent our stand against racism and inequality. Blue represents inspiration. Orange represents determination. She added her initials to represent her commitment to PeacePlayers’ statement, “PEACE STARTS WITH ME.”
PeacePlayers is about more than basketball…its heart is in bringing together young people in conflicted communities. In an “Express Yourself” workshop with Jo’rell, campers wrote poetry about themselves and their experiences, and it was clear we were in the presence of some artists! The raw authenticity was inspiring, but what was most inspiring was seeing the encouragement that the kids wrote to each other in the chat. After each camper shared their poetry, words of encouragement appreciating each other’s art and their bravery for sharing were felt. Throughout the week campers got to know each other and become closer as people – even though they might have been on opposite sides of the country never having met in person. Each learned more about themselves and the other campers They were able to workout together. They were able to become friends. And that is what PeacePlayers Virtual Summer Camp was all about.
As soon as camp was over parents reached out to let us know their impressions of the week. One parent shared “Even though the program was virtual it held the children’s interest to the point that they wanted to be very much involved. Every single coach, speaker, choreographer, person in front of the camera on your end was lively and full of energy…I am sure that each child was reached and left the camp feeling better and probably more capable than when they started.” Another parent wrote, “My daughter just had an amazing week with PeacePlayers and I can’t thank you and your team enough.”
PeacePlayers will always be here to unite, educate, and inspire our youth to create a more peaceful world. In person. Virtually. Always.