Thunder hosts basketball camp for children of incarcerated parents
Mack Hamilton’s new sneakers squeaked as he practiced jumping over the Thunder’s hardwood.
Semaj Sanders was the fastest dribbler in his group, squeezing through the cones to win a prize.
Hamilton and Sanders were among dozens of children on Saturday attending an Oklahoma City basketball camp for children of incarcerated parents.
The camp was hosted by Prison Fellowship Angel Tree – a national organization that advocates for people in the criminal justice system. Prison Fellowship worked with Life Church and the Thunder to host the camp at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have the ability to host something that has such a great history and that has had an instant impact on the young people of our local community,” said Michelle Matthews, Fan Development Manager. of the Thunder.
Campers entered from the southwest side of the arena, walking down a hallway lined with red New Balance shoe boxes. Thunder striker Darius Bazley donated 300 pairs of sneakers.
Bazley did not attend the event, but recorded a broadcast message on the jumbotron.
“No matter what challenges you face, whatever obstacles you must overcome, know that teamwork, dedication and commitment are always necessary to achieve your goals on and off the pitch,” said said Bazley. “Remember, each of you is important and special and created by God Himself.”
Almost 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, according to Prison Fellowship. The United States has about 4% of the world’s population, but about 20% of the world’s prison population.
In 2019, Oklahoma had the second highest state imprisonment rate – 639 people per 100,000 population – according to The sentencing project, citing statistics from the United States Bureau of Justice. Only Louisiana had a higher rate.
“What’s exciting to me is that Oklahoma, I think, has realized that there are high incarceration rates and is really working with us to bring that down,” said Will Riddle, vice. -President of Prison Fellowship Church Programs.
“Part of it is with sentencing laws, part of bringing restorative approaches to prison and part of really helping kids, so it’s a new beginning for them. ”
The children of Angel Tree signed up for basketball camp through their incarcerated parent (s).
“So many lives have been changed just by fostering this interaction,” said Riddle. “Both sides feel forgotten. The parent feels forgotten behind bars by family and friends. They wonder if their children care about them. And the children feel forgotten outside. Angel Tree is truly a bridge.
Hamilton and Sanders were proud to show off their new kicks, snapping them during drills.
“We come into this Thunder field as strangers, we come back as families,” said Matthews. “I think that’s what you’re going to see here today.”