By: Katie Sobiech
When hearing the words “Haven of Rest” many recognize it as the area’s largest homeless shelter, but many aren’t aware that they do much more than the enormous task of feeding and clothing the homeless.
Every year they also have activities reaching out to our city’s youth; one of these events being “Hope Basketball Camp”.
This past month was their 19th year doing this.
During the boys’ week they had a visit from coach Dan Peters, player Chauncey Gillian, and Tim Carroll – graduate assistant from the University of Akron’s men’s basketball team. During the girls’ week they had a visit from Taylor Ruper and Rachel Tecca, both players on the University of Akron women’s basketball team. Each group gave the campers some encouragement and advice.
Calling All Basketball Stars
This outreach camp is designed for those who shine on the court, and those don’t, but want to learn new skills and have some fun. It’s primarily for inner city boys and girls, which gives them a glimpse outside of their own little world, or city. The Haven provides transportation, even if that means personally picking kids up from their homes. They load up their vans, taking all of the kids to Christ Community Chapel in Hudson. There they are introduced to a variety of a variety of coaches, volunteers and new people to meet.
This is the Haven’s 12th year taking it to Christ Community Chapel (formerly Hudson Community Chapel).
The program is usually the last two weeks of July. Grades 3-8 are welcome, and boys and girls are split up into separate teams. It’s free of cost and everyone gets a basketball, t-shirt, medallion and sports devotional Bible.
Breakfast and lunch are served and the kids break up into teams separate from their friends, allowing them to interact with new people.
A short Bible lesson follows, allowing the kids to interact and share issues that they’re dealing with.
Bringing a Bigger Message
“We use basketball as an attraction to get them in and that allows us to open up the word of God and share,” Jack Hugg, Education Coordinator at the Haven of Rest, said.
This is Hugg’s 12th year as camp director.
“At the end of each day, or session, they have a 15-20 minute devotional with their team where they open up the word of God,” Hugg said, “It gives the kids an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, or at least they learn about that.”
One thirteen year old girl shared how hearing stories from the Bible was new to her.
“I learned a lot about Adam and Eve and the Bible,” she said, reciting the story of Adam and Eve the best she could.
She also made some friends along the way.
The majority of kids have always responded positively to the Gospel message.
“We have so many decisions (to accept Christ) throughout the course of the two weeks. Some accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and some already know Him and re-dedicate their lives because maybe they’re not living for Him or they’ve kind of fallen away or started running around with the wrong crowd. It’s an opportunity to encourage them, share and have fun,” Hugg said.
Learning New Skills
“Their coaches work with them on different skills like passing, dribbling, shooting and rebounding,” Hugg said, “and some will teach different types of offensive plays.”
Keyonna Morgan, a girls coach, attended the camp in 3rd grade and now, at 17, is into her 3rd year of coaching.
“I fell in love with basketball here,” Morgan said, “the thing I think is important and I like is just giving back and this is my way of giving back.”
“I also like doing the devotions. A lot of kids don’t know about God yet, so I like being able to do devotions with them and tell them my story,” she continued.
This year Morgan had five or six girls on her team accept Christ.
Daren Brake, Development Assistant at the Haven, estimates that about 65-70% of the kids that come to the camp have some affiliation with a church, but it’s definitely a mix and the kids are at all different places in their walk with God.
This provides a great opportunity for leaders to step into their lives and offer guidance, truth and hope.
Issues Important to Kids
“It’s interesting, you can see the kids begin to open up to you over a stretch of time because we do devotions every day,” Brake said.
“One of the things that surprised me this year while interacting with the kids was how much somewhat heavy issues matter to them,” he continued, sharing about one of their devotions of Jesus walking on the water and calming the storm.
“These kids can relate (to facing the storms in life) and I say ‘Wow. You know what I mean?'” Brake said, somewhat suprised that kids that young understand and relate to such deep issues.
Another devotional topic included the gifts and talents that God has given every human being.
“It was about how God gave them their individual talents for them to do positive things with. It surprised me that a lot of them wanted to help fund (the homeless, and provide) food and shelter. That struck a chord with them and it’s good to see that these kids have a heart for the less fortunate already,” he shared.
The Church Plugging into the Community
Christ Community Chapel and the Haven have a special connection and partnership that is a great model for others.
“They do all kinds of different events for the Haven and they allow us to come up and use their facility,” Hugg said of the benefits of this partnership.
Volunteers for the camp come from both the Haven and Christ Community Chapel, but they also invite others to join in on this endeavor. Local fireman and teachers have come out to help, as well as High School students who have outgrown the program.
“It’s crucial that my head coach for each team be a born-again believer because they will ultimately share the devotion with the kids. Assistant coaches don’t have to be, which is an interesting story,” Hugg shared, “Last year one of our assistant coaches was not a born-again believer but was sitting in on the devotions with their team and she ended up accepting Christ as her personal savior.”
Members of the community are welcome and encouraged to join in on this yearly event to reach our inner city youth with a positive game and message.
“The biggest thing is that you see changed lives. That’s most important to me,” Hugg said.
If you would like more information on the Haven of Rest and their annual Hope Basketball Camp please visit http://www.havenofrest.org.