The clock is ticking down to the tip-off of Operation UNITE’s first two regional Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps of the summer.

Conducted by former University of Kentucky all-star Jeff Sheppard, the camps are free to any school-aged youth.

Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers is expected to help celebrate the start the eighth season for Shoot Hoops Not Drugs in Laurel County on Monday, June 30, at Bush Elementary School, located at 1730 East Laurel Road off KY 80 near London.

The next day, Tuesday, July 1, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs will be held at East Perry Elementary School, located at 1559 East KY 80 in Hazard.

Each camp – which combines basketball skills instruction with anti-drug and self-esteem messages – begins at 4 p.m. and concludes about 7 p.m.

Participants are asked to arrive 30 minutes early to register. (There is no advance registration.) For safety and comfort while participating, youth are asked not to wear open-toe shoes or sandals.

All participants will receive a free event T-shirt, regulation event basketball, food and water, and be entered into a drawing for two portable basketball goals given away at the conclusion of each camp (must be present to win).

Presented by Ameritox, 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.

In addition, parents and guardians will have an opportunity to attend a brief UNITE Foundation-sponsored education program on the emerging heroin problem. Information on the signs, symptoms and dangers posed by prescription drugs will also be provided.

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps continue the following week: Monday, July 7, at Johnson County Middle School; Tuesday, July 8, at Boyd County High School; and Thursday, July 10, at Harlan County High School.

Helping make the 2014 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are the Cumberland Gap Mountain Spring Water (Middlesboro), UPS Foundation, Walmart (Louisa), Kentucky Army National Guard, Laurel Grocery (London), Flowers Bakery (London), Chad’s Hope Teen Challenge Center (Manchester), Farm Credit Mid-America (London), Minuteman Press (London), Tim Short Auto Group (London and Manchester), and WestCare Hal Rogers Appalachian Recovery Center (Ashcamp).

Through last year, UNITE has conducted 51 regional basketball camps with 6,749 youth participants representing 55 Kentucky counties, 15 other states and two other countries.