Keep your eye on the ball
By Danielle Masterson
Four weeks after seeing their coach murdered in Roxbury, 19 youngsters returned to the basketball court, this time at Boston University’s Case Gymnasium.
The children who witnessed the shooting attended BU’s summer basketball camp thanks to the Boston Police Department, which paid for the players’ tuition.
“These kids have faced such challenges this summer,” says Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole. “We need to be there with them to provide these safe alternatives both here at BU and at home.”
The camp, which is led by BU men’s basketball coaches and players, runs every summer in weeklong sessions and is open to area residents. It’s designed to give youngsters a safe and friendly environment to learn and play basketball.
Many of the camp attendees sponsored by the Boston Police were on the Ramsey Park playground when 24-year-old basketball coach William “Biggie” Gaines was shot and killed in broad daylight on July 25 by a person on a bicycle.
While police investigate the case, city officials are focusing on the children.
“We wanted to bring you to BU to give you an opportunity because life is all about opportunities,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) told the youngsters during their second day at the camp. “We’re giving you the opportunity to be successful.”
“This camp is a much-needed show of support for our children who live in neighborhoods affected by violent crime,” O’Toole says. “It sends a message to them that they are important, that we care about them, and that we will ensure that the games will continue.”
Although this year’s police department’s sponsorship of the youths has received a lot of attention because of Gaines’ murder, the Boston Police have been bringing youngsters to the camp and to BU basketball games during the regular season for the last 10 years, more than 250 to date.
And the “kids love it,” says Boston Police Officer John Ridge, who along with Officer George Diaz and Boston Police Superintendent Paul Joyce helped raise money for the camp tuition through the city’s Kids at Risk program.
“When I pull up in the van [to bring them to BU], it’s quickly filled with 20 kids,” says the patrolman. “They keep coming back.”
Menino says the basketball program is just one of the hundreds of ways BU “reaches out to the city of Boston.”
“BU is one of the universities that steps up,” says Menino. “All of the programs sponsored by BU are designed to develop young people.”
City officials hope the children involved in this summer’s basketball camp develop friendships that they will bring back to their neighborhood playgrounds — even if the youngsters involved are from competing turf areas. “The great thing is that the kids are from all neighborhoods,” says Ridge. “It’s a way for them to build friendships.”
Ike, a Roxbury 12-year-old, is enjoying the camp very much. “It’s a good way to learn basketball and become friends with other kids,” he says.