JENKINS – With all the fanfare of a college basketball pre-game pep rally, residents from WestCare’s Hal Rogers Appalachian Recovery Center used music and dance moves to spark enthusiasm among participants at UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp July 7.

The camp, held at Jenkins High School in Letcher County, was conducted by former University of Kentucky basketball standout Jeff Sheppard.

This is the third year for the dance routine, created by the residents “to add something extra” to the camps, said Mike Williams, clinical director for the WestCare facility in Pike County.

To view photos from camp click here.

An average of 20 residents participate as counselors at each camp, Williams said, adding selection is based on behavior and progress in their substance abuse treatment.

“It’s a huge benefit,” Williams explained. “They can be identified with what they are doing and that they can overcome their past.”

This was the fourth of six regional programs being held this summer and drew 121 youth participants from four counties (Letcher, Pike, Perry and Harlan) and three other states (Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio).

Winners of two basketball goals given away during camp were 10-year-old Emma Maggard of Jenkins and 13-year-old Jordan Brock of McRoberts.

Presented by Phoenix Products, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are fun, interactive, and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children have an opportunity to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.

Sheppard used the camp to stress the importance of teamwork and making the right decisions.

“You have a shirt and a ball that says Shoot Hoops Not Drugs,” Sheppard told participants. “Hopefully every time you look at them it will encourage you to stay away from drugs.”

While the camp provided an opportunity “to learn a little bit about basketball,” the most important lesson is the value of teamwork.

“There is a purpose for your life,” Sheppard said. “Don’t let things like drugs distract you, pull you away from what you are supposed to be doing.”

“You cannot win in life by yourself,” he continued. “Like in the game of basketball you need to surround yourself with a good team.”

At the beginning of camp, parents and guardians of the youth participants were presented a program on the importance of keeping close tabs on their prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic across the nation, and studies have shown that most teens first experiment with drugs obtained from their family or a friend’s family without their knowledge. During the first half of the year members of UNITE’s 30 volunteer community coalitions conducted an informational campaign called “Accidental Dealer” to raise awareness of this issue.

WestCare has assisted with the camps since 2007.

Helping make the 2011 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are:

Gold Sponsors – Codell Construction, Knox County UNITE Coalition, Rockcastle County UNITE Coalition, Senture, SouthEast Telephone and Walmart of Eastern Kentucky.

Silver Sponsors – Citizens Bank & Trust (Jackson), Citizens National Bank (Somerset), First National Bank (Jackson), Huffman & Huffman, PSC (Somerset), and Johnny Maco’s Electrical Contracting (Jackson).

Bronze Sponsors – Alton Blakley Family of Dealerships (Somerset), Community Trust Bank (Pikeville) and St. Joseph-Martin (Floyd County).