By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
Fairmont State basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun was teaching the athletes about ball handling and shooting and defense during last year’s basketball camp, but one student — no more than fourth or fifth-grade — just couldn't pay attention.
He kept asking, ‘When do I catch my bus home? Where is the bus? Are you sure I didn't miss my bus?”
Calhoun assured the student that, no, he did not miss his bus. But the child continued to worry. So when the drills were finally over at the end of the day, Calhoun personally walked the boy to his bus.
The boy promptly turned and wrapped Calhoun in a big hug. He thanked Calhoun and told him it was the best week ever.
"You hope you can affect kids in a positive way," Calhoun said. "When you can contribute to the community, that's what life is all about."
It was a touching moment for Calhoun, but it would have never been possible without the generous contributions from businesses in the community.
Last year, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce recognized that several athletes in the community would benefit from the camp, but they were unable to attend because of the cost. The chamber recruited 15 businesses, who collectively sponsored 26 students, including the affectionate bus rider.
"The fact is there would have been 20 to 25 children that would never have had that experience," Marion County Chamber of Commerce President Tina Shaw said. "Our hope is during that camp, they might meet a mentor or a coach or somebody that sees something in them and it could lead them to other opportunities."
This year, the Chamber of Commerce is at it again. For a $50 donation, businesses can sponsor a student.
Shaw said she reached out to all of the businesses that contributed last year and would welcome new sponsors, as well. Already, just two days after making initial calls, Shaw said the she is halfway to the goal of 20 sponsorships.
"It's a great initiative to get behind and to really make a difference in a child's life,” Shaw said.
Fairmont State is offering two different camps this year. The first is an individual development camp for students ages 8 to 18 on June 17-20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost for the event is $150 and includes lunch and a T-shirt. The second camp is a "biddie ball" camp on June 17 to 19 for children 5 and up.
Calhoun said he is a firm believer in teaching kids proper mechanics at an early age. Each morning, Calhoun, his staff and his players work with campers on everything from footwork to shooting to dribbling. Then in the afternoons, the athletes get to use their new skills during games and other competitions.
Last year about 75 students participated in the camp. This year, Calhoun said he’s hoping for 100, including the 20 business-sponsored athletes.
“Last year was a tremendous experience for some underprivileged kids,” Calhoun said. “It’s our way of giving back, and I think they all had a terrific time.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikedefaboTWV.