BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Last weekend, NBA point guard Royal Ivey returned to his hometown in Hollis to re-launch his annual three-day summer workshop, the “Defending Your Dream” skills clinic.
For six years, the NBA star and his parents, Rod and Jennifer Ivey, have been giving back to the community with the clinic that not only helps kids perfect their basketball skills, but also stresses the importance of education, respect, discipline and teamwork.
In addition to playing in competitions and running drills, the children, ages 8-14, have access to a number of workshops like character building and career guidance, nutrition counseling and financial literacy.
“I wanted to do something that catered to life skills and basketball,” said Ivey, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers. “Life is not just about basketball – there are other things. It’s about the essentials like nutrition, eating right and educating the kids.”
Ivey, who grew up in Hollis and attended Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, said that when he was younger, there were not a lot of workshops like this available in his community. This is why, he said, he was motivated to start the free clinic at the Hollis Playground.
“There are no outlets [in Southeast Queens] for our kids in the summertime to go out there and enjoy themselves and to learn and have fun,” he said. “This is the way that I can give back. Just putting the smiles on the kids’ face – I have fun with it and that puts joy in my heart.”
Michael Harvey, an 11-year-old Hollis boy, is just one of many children who return to the clinic year after year to brush up on his basketball and life skills.
“I joined this program because it’s great and it teaches me many skills, like the fundamentals of the game,” Harvey said. “The reason why I like this game is because it makes me more active and more focused.”
In addition to running drills and playing with Ivey this past weekend, the kids got another surprise– a special visit from ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith and Chicago Bulls center Nazr Mohammed.
Smith, who also grew up in Hollis, similarly stressed the importance of having programs like this available for kids, like Harvey, in his community.
“I think we need more for the kids to do. The more they are doing other things, the less they are off the streets,” Smith explained. “Things like this encourage volunteers and people to give up their time and effort to really talk to these kids and have an impact in their lives. Those are the kinds of things that saved me. I was part of a program like this.”
“There are so many kids out there that don’t have a family encouraging them – they are in the streets and they are not doing the things they are supposed to do,” he added. “When you see something like this, you realize there is hope for our younger generation and that we have to be the ones to help.”
To learn more about the Royal Skills Basketball Clinic, visit www.royaliveybasketballcamp.com.
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org