Hope and a Future

Basketball Smiles is a non-profit organization that conducts free basketball camps and life-skills programs for children in the poorest, most at-risk areas in The Bahamas.

Our programs are designed to develop leadership qualities and raise the children’s academic expectations and self-esteem.

Basketball Smiles encourages the children to be active, conscientious citizens through activities that help them become competent

  • Socially
  • Morally
  • Emotionally
  • Physically
  • Cognitively

With the basketball court as a laboratory, we encourage campers to set goals, cultivate self-discipline and choose lifestyles that do not include drugs and violence. Campers are rewarded for good choices and they are exposed to an environment that fosters mutual respect and personal responsibility.

The first thing we tell them is to pick up and dispose of any trash they see. They quickly assume the responsibility. It’s the beginning of a new way of living for these boys and girls.

Coach Sam and camper with basketball
The first year, Coach Sam Nichols coached 85 children by himself. Since then, the lives of more than 11,000 boys and girls have been touched by Basketball Smiles.

Who we are

Sam Nichols, a member of the prestigious Women’s Basketball Coaches of America 600-Victory Club Hall of Honor, and a team of volunteer coaches instill self-esteem and a desire for achievement in disadvantaged, under-served children in The Bahamas.

The eight to 10 coaches pay their own way and volunteer their time to work 12 hours a day with the boys and girls at our annual camp. It’s not a vacation…more

June 19-23, 2023

When the 26th child registers for camp this year, we will have given 12,000 boys and girls in the poorest area of The Bahamas a chance at a better life. Last year was our comeback year after COVID. This year is the year of Building Back Better, Bigger. We will have the largest number of experienced, dedicated volunteer coaches we’ve ever had – polished young adults, some with master’s degrees, who love these kids and have the vision to inspire them to excellence in character and academic achievement..more

New shoes for girls!

For years it has grieved the coaches to see so many of our campers participate in camp barefoot or with inadequate footwear. Children would come to camp wearing shower slides, flip flops, shoes that were too small, or no shoes at all. That’s just the world they live in; they had no choice. Last year we were able to provide new shoes for our campers.

This year a generous donor has provided all the shoes for the boys. But we are still lacking shoes for our girl campers...more

Highlights from Come-Back Camp 2022

Coaches surrounded by happy campers
The team at Basketball Smiles builds into the campers’ future, using the court as a laboratory where they learn life skills and develop high ethical standards.

We started with a camp and grew to meet the needs

Since 1999, more than 11,000 boys and girls have participated in week-long basketball camps in the under-served neighborhoods in The Bahamas, where 20 percent of the homes have no running water or electricity. We were unable to have a camp in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, so we sent our boys and girls supplies to keep them well.

The area where the camp is conducted has one of the highest murder rates per square mile in the entire Caribbean, so the week-long basketball camp was just the beginning of our meeting the needs of these boys and girls…more

Basketball Smiles is in its 24th year and serves more than 300 boys and girls each summer.

Basketball Smiles started with an umbrella

Coach Sam Nichols had just finished his acceptance speech after being inducted into the Hall of Fame 500 Victory Club at the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association meeting in San Jose, California, in 1999. He stepped outside of the meeting hall. It was raining and he popped open his umbrella.

Coach Patty Johnson, from H.O. Nash Junior High School in Nassau, The Bahamas, asked if she could share the umbrella with Coach Sam and he made a place for her. Coach Patty told him how much she had enjoyed his acceptance speech.

“I wish you could come to my country and do a coaches’ clinic and a camp for kids,” Coach Patty said.

“I do camps all over the world,” Coach Sam said.

“No, my kids are in the worst, the poorest, most dangerous place in The Bahamas,” she said sadly.

“I knew at that point that I was going,” Coach Sam says…more

Coach Sam and boy campers
Coach Patty Johnson told Coach Sam, “Nobody cares about my kids.”

Coaches encourage good character, leadership and personal responsibility that change campers’ lives.

Success stories illustrate the effectiveness of instilling hope

Michael came to camp in shower shoes
Alex gets to go to school
Basketball Smiles changes Shashonna Smith’s life