By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
A basketball player earns an assist when he or she makes a pass which allows a teammate to score a basket.
Typically, it’s the point guard who racks up the most assists. Sometimes a shooting guard will dish one out. Even a big man might drop a “dime” as it’s called. This time, though, it was the community, not players, earning the assist. Twenty assists, actually.
From June 17-20, Fairmont State University held its annual basketball camp. The Marion County Chamber of Commerce recognized that many athletes in the community would benefit from the camp, but could not attend because of the cost.
For the second year in a row, the Chamber of Commerce, with help from Fairmont State volunteer assistant coach Neil Dixon, reached out to local businesses and individuals in the area to sponsor underprivileged children who otherwise would not be able to attend the camp.
Marion County Chamber of Commerce President Tina Shaw said that “through the generosity of businesses and residents from Marion County” the group met its goal of sending 20 underprivileged athletes to the camp.
“When opportunities like this arise, it really brings a community like Marion County together,” she said. “It connects the businesses with residents. And everybody is in it for the same reason and they have one goal: to help needy children. I’d like to thank them for being so gracious and generous.”
The 20 athletes were able to attend basketball camp at Fairmont State University thanks to contributions from BC Bank, Fairmont resident Col. Tom Wolfe, First Energy, President of West Virgina Operations of FirstEnergy Holly Kauffman, Fairmont resident Jay Rogers, Jennifer Wade of Conley CPA, Lou Spatafore of Friendly Furniture, Mayor of Grant Town Melanie Thompson, Kevin Wilfong of Middletown Homes Sales, Jim Estep of WVHTC Foundation and the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.
Shaw said she was thankful that businesses were able to chip in again. She was even more impressed by individuals who read an article in the paper about the event and, unsolicitated, called the Chamber of Commerce asking if they could help.
“I think it makes a huge positive statement about this community and the people who live in Marion County that they always want to help anybody in need,” Shaw said. “They prove it again and again.”
Fairmont State offered two camps: an individual development camp for students ages 8 to 18 and a “Biddy Ball” camp for 4- to 8-year-olds.
Campers learned the fundamental of shooting, dribbling, passing and defense from Fairmont State basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun and his staff and players.
Calhoun said he likes to get his players involved as a way to give back to the community. Not only do the campers learn from the Fighting Falcon players, but the players learn from the campers as well.
“When they coach for the first time, they realize you have to have patience, especially with the young kids,” Calhoun said. “I think they did a great job all week with that.”
More than 100 athletes participated in this years’ camp, exceeding Calhoun’s own expectations. Calhoun said the success of the camp, especially the underprivileged athletes who attended, is a reflection of the community.
“They probably don’t realize what an impact they had on these kids,” he said about the donors. “Our staff cannot thank them enough.”
“That’s really why I came to Fairmont,” he added. “Our community support here is top notch. I’ve been to a lot of different schools. I would put our community up against any other community as far as supporting not just athletics, but everything in general. When someone needs to step up, the people in this community really do.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.