GRAYS KNOB –Tom Vicini was recognized with the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy’s (ACA) “Positive Impact Award” prior to an Operation UNITE Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp held for cadets on Thursday, October 5.

Vicini, who became UNITE’s fourth President & CEO on October 1, has worked for the organization in various capacities since June 2006, most recently as Deputy Director.

ACA Director Josh Coldiron said the award – which is not usually presented outside the facility – recognized Vicini’s “continual support of the mission of the (ACA) program” since it opened in the summer of 2012.

Operated by the Kentucky National Guard, with partnerships between the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, the ACA’s mission is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-old Kentuckians and produce program graduates with the tools and skills necessary to succeed in society.

The 22-week ACA residential program focuses on educational excellence and character development.  Two classes are held each year.

Through Vicini’s leadership, UNITE enlisted ACA cadets as volunteers to assist with regional Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps and, in 2016, began conducting a dedicated camp for ACA’s fall class. This was expanded to include the spring class in 2023.

Shoot Hoops Not Drugs is a series of free regional basketball camps conducted by Jarrod Polson, who played at the University of Kentucky from 2010-2014 and was a member of the Wildcats’ 2012 NCAA Division 1 National Championship team. Polson, a four-time All-Southeastern Conference Academic Team member, took over running the Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps in 2017 from fellow UK alumnus and camp creator Jeff Sheppard (a Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1998).

Goals of Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps include providing a safe, drug-free activity for youth to interact with positive role models; share positive, anti-drug and self-esteem messages in the context of learning basic basketball skills; and to share prevention messages with adult parents/caregivers.

Since its inception in 2006, UNITE has conducted 105 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps involving 13,388 youth.

UNITE President & CEO Tom Vicini, left, receives the “Positive Impact Award” from Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy Director Josh Coldiron on October 5, 2023.