Several elementary-age kids from throughout Pulaski County spent their Thursday afternoon shooting hoops and learning how to play basketball from some of the state’s most recognizable athletes – Coach John Calipari and members of the University of Kentucky Mens Basketball team.
Calipari kicked off the camp, held at the gymnasium at Pulaski County High School, by speaking with the kids.
The camp was one of several held throughout the state, offered by Justice Action Network, a national bipartisan criminal justice reform group.
Dozens of kids who have been impacted by family addiction issues or parental incarceration are participating in the Coach Cal satellite camps all over the Commonwealth. The kids are admitted to the camp free of charge, and even have the opportunity to get pictures and autographs with Coach Cal and his team, according to a statement form Justice Action Network.
The organization thanked several local elected officials who “pitched in to help with the project, ensuring as many kids as possible could take part in the experience.”
They include Pulaski County Judge Executive Steve Kelley, State Senator Rick Girdler, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, local drug court staff and Congressman Hal Rogers’ district team.
Senator Girdler was on hand to watch some of the camp action.
“This is a dream come true for so many Pulaski County children. Without this partnership and Coach Cal’s generosity, these kids would never be able to have an experience like this,” said Senator Girdler. “This is a stark reminder that addiction and incarceration doesn’t just impact the people who make mistakes…an entire generation of children are affected, too. And as a community, we have to step in and help these kids.”
“When Coach Cal speaks, Kentuckians listen,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network.
“I’m hopeful his voice will inspire more people to consider the devastating impact that addiction and incarceration is having on our friends and family members. We cannot throw in the towel on people who have made mistakes, if for no other reason than we need them to get healthy again so they can support their kids. Through this camp, Coach Cal gave dozens of children who have experienced so much trauma and pain the chance to just be a kid again...and that makes him a hero on and off the court.”
The experience was a rewarding one for the young Kentucky basketball players as well, interacting with the youth and seeing the impact that they have as sports superstars in the Commonwealth. The players could be seen mixing among the scores of children and tossing up shots on the familiar Pulaski County High School gym baskets, where former Wildcat Reggie Hanson once played.
“So far, we’re just getting to know the kids around the state,” said rising sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley. “It’s important for us to know how important (UK basketball) is to the state of Kentucky, and what it means to the entire state.”
Quickley added that he and his teammates are “having a lot of fun with the kids,” and giving each one “something that they can remember for the rest of their life.”