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
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.
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 children…more
We are hopeful we can have a Basketball Smiles camp in October. We expect it would be our largest ever because it may well include all the children on the neighboring islands who were removed to Nassau after Hurricane Dorian in 2019...more
Lace ‘Em Up 2021
Over the years campers have played in flipflops, shoes duct-taped together, even two children sharing a pair of shoes, taking turns playing barefoot on the asphalt. This year we want each child to have new shoes. See how you can help…more
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 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
Why they need us
The Basketball Smiles camp is held in the under-served neighborhoods in The Bahamas, where 20 percent of the homes have no running water or electricity. The area where the camp is conducted has one of the highest murder rates per square mile in the Caribbean.
- Cases of child abuse have continued to rise the past five years.
- Teenage suicide attempts are increasing.
- Violent crime and gang-related crime is an on-going threat in the inner city communities.
- Food prices were predicted to increase as high as 40 percent before COVID hit. During the pandemic, the islands have been isolated; tourism, the one local industry, non-existent; and in many cases, there was no food to purchase, even if people had had funds.
- The Bahamas has the second highest unemployment rate (around 15 percent) among Caribbean nations over a four-year, pre-COVID period.
- Unmarried mothers account for the majority of all births in The Bahamas.
- Nearly 60 percent of the nation’s high school graduates finish with attendance certificates instead of diplomas because students fail to meet a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 during six years of high school.
Basketball Smiles is in its 22nd 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