Basketball Smiles conducts multi-faceted programs to help under-served children in the Bahamas:
- Basketball Camps: We offer free, week-long camps for quality basketball instruction for any child who wants to attend. We have many children who attend year after year.
- Life Skills Program: Our camps include our Life Skills Program designed to develop leadership qualities and raise the children’s academic expectations and self-esteem. They are encouraged to be active and conscientious citizens through a series of activities and experiences designed to help them become socially, morally, emotionally, physically and cognitively competent.
- They are taught the value of good citizenship, academic success and making good lifestyle choices. 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.
- At the completion of camp, campers are given individual basketball gear, as well as individual trophies and awards.
- Basketball Smiles Academic Tutorial and Leadership Program: Every camper is given school supplies and a Basketball Smiles school backpack to carry their books during the academic year. Without backpacks, children don’t want to take their school books home to do homework; carrying them in their hands indicates they are poor and makes them subject to ridicule. Materials provided by the Basketball Smiles are used by teachers at H.O. Nash Jr. High School and C. R. Walker High School. Three-hundred children are now served at our basketball camp, and upward of 200 more children are served each school year through our academic programs.
- Basketball Clinics: Our staff also holds basketball clinics for Bahamian coaches and physical education teachers to assist them with professional growth and development.
- Athletic gear: We also provide athletic equipment, basketball uniforms and gear to under-served schools in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. These are used by school administrators for academic/behavior incentives for their students.
- Esteem-building: Individual trophies are presented to campers for outstanding effort and citizenship during camp. Campers are fed a nutritious meal each day and ice water is provided daily during camp.
- Generational Program of Leadership Development: Some of our campers have received academic scholarships to attend college in the United States. Some of our Bahamian coaches who work with Basketball Smiles were, at one time, campers themselves. We have many repeat campers who have attended our camps for several years.
All U.S. coaches volunteer their time to work in our camps. All interested coaches go through an interview and screening process before being accepted to participate in Basketball Smiles. All U.S. coaches bear individual responsibility for their expenses.
For the past 20 years, we have had various Bahamian volunteers. We have established relationships with several Bahamian coaches and interested citizens who help during camp.
2020 Initiative — Shoes for Every Kid
For years it has grieved us to see so many of our campers participate in camp either barefoot or with inadequate footwear. Children will come to camp wearing shower slides, flip flops, shoes that are too small, shoes that are Duct-taped together or no shoes at all. That’s just the world they live in. They have no choice.
It is our vision to provide every camper with a new pair of basketball shoes in our camp in June 2020. It will be about 300 pair and will be the greatest challenge we have ever undertaken. But as Sandy Nichols, Coach Sam’s wife, said last summer, “I’m tired of seeing these children coming to camp and playing without shoes.”
You see, they play on asphalt outdoors in the tropical heat.
Receiving a new pair of athletic shoes will not only meet an immediate practical need, but will communicate a sense of value to each one of these children that will be immeasurable. Frankly, most, if not all, have never had a new pair of shoes — ever!
We feel that we have no choice – we have a mandate to do whatever it takes to provide shoes for these boys and girls who no one else cares about.