By: Katie Sobiech
“What a great day…what a great day,” Akron City Mayor, Donald L. Plusquellic said, standing before a crowd of 2,500 people. “What a great celebration in Akron.”
Parents and their kids braved the heat, forming a long line outside of the Summit Lake Community Center (SLCC) for NBA MVP LeBron James’ More Than a Game tour, sponsored by Nike.
Free to all, the event held on August 21st included a large stage with performances by local acts, as well as free food, tattoos, games, shoe whitening, prizes and more.
More than just fun and games, it was a call to action among the youth to change their lives, improve their neighborhoods and serve their communities. James and Nike saluted 13 Akron-area athletes for their work in the community.
More Than a Game
More Than a Game is a documentary that recounts how James and his friends pursued their dream of winning a national High School championship. Though facing challenges, the five soared into the spotlight when James got his big break.
The film hits theaters October 2nd.
James and some of his friends featured in the documentary including, Dru Joyce III, coach Dru Joyce II and Sian Cotton, took the stage to talk about the message of the film.
“I would ask that all of you watch the documentary. Especially young people,” Plusquellic said, “There are great lessons about friendships, character and hard work. LeBron learned from a very young age the importance of giving back and putting out a hand to help young people.”
Though the event promoted James’ documentary, it was also held to recognize and reward Akron-area children who have achieved academic success, improved their physical fitness and made important contributions to the community.
Director of the SLCC for 22 years, Audley McGill, took the stage briefly to talk about his work with Nike on the SLCCs’ volunteer program called Game Changers.
“We take different kids from the community center that volunteered,” he said, “And they don’t get paid for it, they show up, sweep floors, pick up trash and work with the kids.”
He then introduced the Game Changers, a large group of adolescents.
“They don’t get a lot of glory for it, but they do a good job,” McGill shouted in order to be heard above the crowds’ applause.
Summit Lake Community Center
James appearance at the SLCC was significant in that it was where he learned to play basketball at the early age of 7. McGill was James coach.
“I was one of the first ones to teach him basketball,” McGill said, “We ran a basketball clinic and that’s where I worked with him.”
Not only are they a recreational facility, but have a youth basketball program, day care, and other programs.
“It’s just a community situation,” McGill said, “LeBron came from this neighborhood and he just wanted to give back, so they had the More Than a Game tour and he picked this place.”
“We do a lot not just for this community but city wide,” McGill continued, “There are so many different things, we could be here for hours just talking about it. You name it, we do it,” he continued.
LeBron plans to help renovate the facility, expanding the gym and foyer area, and putting in locker and resource rooms.
Daring to Dream
When asked what message he wants to give kids LeBron responded, “If you have a dream you should always try to strive at it and make it a reality. We had a dream and we didn’t let anything get in our way of making that dream become a reality.”
He continued, “You have to make sacrifices also. It’s not always a bed of roses – you’re going to go through ups and downs.”
Coach Dru encouraged the crowd, “Never walk away. When things get hard, never give up. Work at it no matter what happens.”
LeBron has teamed up with Nike for this reason.
“We want to empower young athletes and young kids to become better – better in life and better in the game of basketball.”
LeBron James Family Foundation
Other than being an all star on the court, James is passionate about two specific things. His annual “King for Kids Bikeathon”, held on the 22nd, highlighted that.
“The Bikeathon is geared toward single-parent mothers and young African American kids in the inner city,” he said.
This year the event brought 1,100 riders together to raise money for the Akron Urban League and the Akron Area YMCA.
“My whole passion is about inner-city kids and kids having a dream about becoming something more than what people think they can have – also single-parent mothers, which my mother was,” James told riders and spectators.
For more information on the Summit Lake Community Center please call (330) 375-2826