Basketball Smiles programs help children develop character and leadership that are stepping stones to a successful future
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 and the hope that allows children to reach their full potential glimmers faintly under the veil of poverty. The reputation of The Bahamas as a vacation delight is richly deserved, but behind the scenes is a world where boys and girls do not see possibilities and do not have desirable options.
Free, week-long basketball camps
No child every pays. No child is ever turned away from our basketball camps for boys and girls. Along with the highest quality instruction, campers receive a nutritious meal every day at camp.
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.
We provide approximately 200 gallons of water and 200 pounds of ice to keep the children hydrated while playing on an outdoor asphalt court where the heat index is usually 104 to 108 degrees.
Campers receive a T-shirt, a school backpack and their own camp basketball at the end of the week. On the last day, we host an ice cream and pizza party for the boys and girls.
We have many children who attend our camps year after year. Some return after graduating to serve and inspire those who come behind them, like Shashonna Smith, who found her life-calling at Basketball Smiles camps and became basketball coach and teacher. She is a volunteer coach at our summer camps, serving as an example of what each camper could become.
Life Skills Program
Our Life Skills Program is designed to develop leadership qualities and self-discipline and raise the children’s academic expectations and self-esteem, while encouraging them to be active and conscientious citizens. Life Skills are incorporated daily into the camp activities.
Campers are rewarded for good choices and they are exposed to an environment that fosters mutual respect and personal responsibility.
Basketball Smiles Summer Academic Tutorial Program
In 2014 we established the Basketball Smiles Summer Academic Tutorial Program in cooperation with local Bahamian teachers and school administrators. We donate more than $1,000 worth of school supplies each summer to the schools in inner-city neighborhoods, where children can’t afford basic school supplies such as notebook paper, crayons, glue sticks, pens and pencils.
Each child who attends camp also receives school supplies and a backpack, which helps them overcome the appearance of poverty that draws ridicule.
Special education programs to combat sex trafficking
There is one horrific story that peels back the veil of poverty: Vans park outside the schools — even elementary schools — where unprincipled predators provide the only way the poorest children can obtain basic supplies needed for an education. The boys and girls tell these adults they need a pencil, some paper and the adults say, “What are you willing to do to get it?”
Even the youngest children know that education is the only way out of their poverty. These predators trade sex with boys and girls for supplies necessary for their education. The children participate because it is the only way for them to get the basic supplies they need to go to school.
But not anymore! Basketball Smiles provides these supplies through school administrators so children won’t become victims. We also provide supplies for school music, art, carpentry and special education classes.
Inservice training for Nassau physical education teachers
In conjunction with the school district, our staff conducts free basketball clinics for Bahamian coaches and physical education teachers to assist them with professional growth and development.
Hurricane Dorian School Readiness Initiative 2019
We raised more than $13,000 in emergency funds to help 60 displaced boys and girls get school supplies, personal hygiene products and mandatory school uniforms after they fled to Nassau from neighboring islands with nothing but what they had on.