IRVINE – It’s all about making the right moves – on the basketball court and in life.
Residents of WestCare’s substance abuse treatment facility, who have been instrumental in providing volunteer assistance to Operation UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps for the past five years, brought that message front and center Monday afternoon June 28.
The men, anxious to show that lives nearly ruined by addiction can be salvaged, debuted an entertaining, high-energy dance presentation for the 110 youth gathered in the Estill County High School gymnasium.
“It’s important for youth to realize that substance abuse affects lives across the socio-economic spectrum,” said Jenifer Noland, Appalachian Region Vice President for WestCare. “These men are everyday family members, neighbors and friends who were drawn down a destructive path. Because of their personal experience with drugs, they have a unique perspective and desperately want to prevent others from going through that terrible trauma.”
The camp, featuring former University of Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard, was sponsored by WestCare Kentucky through an ARC mini-grant from the Estill-Powell KY-ASAP Board. Youth from 4 counties – Estill, Madison, Letcher, and Fayette — participated in the program and received a basketball and event T-shirt.
While the main order of the day was learning fundamental basketball skills, Sheppard explained that lessons learned from playing sports can be applied to the rest of your life.
“The best way to get from where you are today to where you want to be is to set a goal,” Sheppard said. “None of us is perfect, but you need to set goals, work hard and avoid being distracted by bad influences – such as using alcohol or other drugs.”
“The best way to stay on a straight line is not to try and do it by yourself,” continued Sheppard, the NCAA’s Final Four Most Valuable Player in the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1997-98 national championship season. “You cannot win in life by yourself. It takes a team. It takes you hanging around the right people.”
During the three-hour camp, presented by Phoenix Products, Sheppard emphasized encouragement and effort as the most important ingredients to achieve one’s goals.
In addition, parents and care-givers attended a brief education program to discuss the importance of talking with children about drugs along with recognizing behavioral and physical signs of drug use.
“Children whose parents regularly speak with them about the dangers of drugs are 50 percent less likely to abuse drugs,” noted Sarah Flynn, PhD, research and community outreach director for UNITE. “Kentucky ranks highest in the nation for the abuse of prescription drugs, so it is vital that your children understand that pills are just as dangerous and addictive as other drugs.”
Other Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps this summer will be held:
• Tuesday, June 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Phelps High School in Pike County.
• Tuesday, June 29, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at East Ridge High School in Pike County.
• Thursday, July 8, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Jackson County Middle School.
• Thursday, July 15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Knott County SportsPlex.
Since 2006 the camps have drawn more than 3,600 youth participants from 50 Kentucky counties, 10 other states and Mexico.
Other sponsors for this year’s basketball tour include: Jackson Energy, Knott County SportsPlex, Knott Drug Abuse Council, Leatherwood Elementary UNITE Club, Pikeville Medical Center, Senture, SouthEast Telephone, Walmart and WestCare-Kentucky.
In addition to its long-term residential substance abuse treatment facility in Pike County, WestCare Kentucky operates a Homeless Shelter, Community Involvement Center and a Jail Recovery Program in Pikeville, and a Jail Recovery Program in Floyd County.
Based in Las Vegas, WestCare has more than 30 years experience providing a continuum of health and human services in community-based environments. Offering services in seven states and two U.S. territories, WestCare specializes in helping individuals and families historically considered difficult to treat, such as those who are indigent, have multiple disorders, or are involved with the criminal justice system.