For Buckeye basketball player Seth Towns, the chance to support and inspire summer camp students at the Linden Community Recreation Center was a family affair.
Towns, a forward on The Ohio State University men’s team, grew up in Columbus, often played hoops in Linden and when he took to the court this week to play dodgeball, some of the campers he was aiming at were family.
“I had, I think, eight or nine cousins running around in there. My uncle is here, and so are so many people I know and grew up with,” he said.
Last week, Towns was joined by most of the team and several members of the Columbus Division of Police to celebrate the last week of the LiFEsports summer camp. About 80 campers attended the eight-week camp in Linden. It’s one of several camps serving area youth through the university’s nationally recognized LiFEsports program.
“Our goal at LiFEsports is to teach life skills through sport. We want to teach leadership, we want to teach self-control, effort, teamwork, social responsibility, and we do that by using sport as a hook,” said LiFEsports Assistant Director of Programming Katelen Ramsey.
Sport is the perfect place to learn and practice these life skills, ones that youth need on the court but also in life, she said.
Lifesports partners with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department to run the camps at Linden and other community centers around the city.
“We bring supplies, we bring staff, we bring our evidence-based practices and curriculum,” Ramsey said. “We go on field trips; we host career day at Ohio State to give them exposure to campus. We have different community events that are happening at Linden. We help support what’s happening in the neighbourhood.”
The basketball team and Columbus police played dodgeball, skills games and other drills. Starfish Assignment, a charity that works with law enforcement officers to support the communities they serve, helped coordinate the community day.
“We love these opportunities to bring people together,” said Starfish Assignment founder Nicole Banks. “We are very excited to work with the Buckeyes and make this a celebration to remember for the Linden community.”
Ramsey said the camp and related visits to campus can be transformative for the participants. About 35 campers visited the university this summer, and fewer than half had ever previously visited Ohio State.
“Now they’re talking about Ohio State. It’s the bigger picture of exposure – how do you give back and build those relationships so kids can be a bigger part of our future in the community?” Ramsey said.
Towns said he grew up in summer camps like the one in Linden. He said it’s important for the university to be involved in the community.
“They’re teaching these kids life skills. They’re teaching them how to be good sports, to be leaders,” he said. “Particularly in Columbus, it’s Ohio State. … We have a lot of eyes on us and with those eyes comes a responsibility. It’s like the example to be the model citizen. If we come here and exemplify those things, then I think we’re doing our role pretty well.”
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