By Wes Wilson
For the Daily News
WILLIAMSON – The historic Williamson Field house has held some of the largest attended events in our area and this week it played host to one of the longest running annual events in Mingo County. The First Baptist Church of Williamson has sponsored its “Bible Basketball Camp” since 1994 when the idea was born in an attempt for the church to hold a unique and different summer event for kids. This year’s event coordinator, Robin Griffey explained, “Basketball was always such a big thing here in Williamson and an important part of town’s history. The initial plan was to change things up from the usual vacation bible school and the basketball-themed approach was soon a huge hit”.
Initially in the early 90’s, the camp saw nearly 130 daily attendees pushing the church to add more volunteers every year. Over the last five years, numbers had been slightly down up until this week. On Monday night, just under 100 kids showed up and the numbers increased as the week progressed, eventually going over the triple digit mark. The camp was divided into two age groups of 4-8 year old’s and 9-13 year old’s. Each camp session lasted an hour and a half each evening, giving kids the chance to learn some valuable core basketball skills in addition to “Chalk Talk”, when campers learned bible stories and had daily devotionals. Some stations included dribbling techniques, defensive plays, and footwork but it seemed many just enjoyed being on the floor at the Fieldhouse.
For some, it’s a chance to give back to the community in a very special way. Keshean Rhodes, a junior basketball player at Mingo Central attended the event throughout his childhood and now returns to coach the young campers. “When I was little, I’d do the same thing as these kids here. People would help me out like this and it’s so great to see so many kids come out wanting to learn. It’s special to me to think I was in their shoes once”. Rhodes also commented how neat it was to see his own high school coach participate in the event, “I think it shows just how good of a man Coach Thompson is, to take the time out of his day to come down here, help these kids out and be involved with the future of our area. He’s got a great heart”.
Perhaps the passion of all the volunteers and spirit of those involved has helped keep this event so popular. “It’s been such a successful way our church has been able to spread the gospel, incorporate other people into the event and reach out to so many lives” said the event coordinator Robin Griffey. “Our local coaches are amazing, no matter what we’ve had to ask for, and they’ve always been there to help us. Having Rabbit (Thompson) here is wonderful and he runs the second session like it’s his own team and the kids listen to him and Coach Browning so closely”.
During the early part of the week, severe storms caused the fieldhouse to see water leaks, power outages and yet the camp pressed on. At one point, campers were still doing drills and having the time of their lives without any light. “No matter what has happened, no matter how many obstacles have been put before us, the event has always gone on and the Lord has always provided us a wonderful camp every year without a doubt.” concluded Griffey.
In addition to learning some invaluable basketball skills, all campers were given a t-shirt and bible to take home with them.