On Friday, July 13th 2012 United Way had the pleasure of coordinating a service project for a great group of high school basketball players. The 10 young men were in the Washington, DC area to take part in Nike’s Global Challenge, an international tournament featuring the best high school players from around the world. Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League boasts an alumni list that resembles an NBA All Star team roster, so these athletes representing the eastern United States could very well be the next generation of big names in professional basketball. On this morning they were just excited for the opportunity to give back to the community.
We arrived at ACCA Child Development Center, an outstanding child care facility in Annandale, VA filled with passionate teachers and staff, where players were going to spend an hour reading to preschool children and assisting teachers in their classrooms. The reactions of the children as they watched these towering athletes enter their classrooms were priceless. It was clear from their ear-to-ear smiles that the kids were excited to meet their tall new friends. The reactions of the players were also priceless. Some seemed pretty comfortable, but a few seemed a bit intimidated by the twenty or so four year olds vying for their attention. Within minutes of meeting the kids, the shock subsided and the players were all smiles again. They read multiple books to their classes, asked engaging questions about the stories, assisted teachers with classroom management, and had lots of fun playing with the children. At the end of their time together, the players distributed free books provided by First Book that the children could take home and said their goodbyes.
This experience really highlighted a few very important elements of being a volunteer reader:
- There’s no such thing as too young to get involved. These guys are still in high school and every one of them did a great job. They were ideal role-models and wonderfully fun readers. College students, high school students, and even middle school children make great volunteer readers.
- If this guy seemed nervous about his first time in a preschool class, then it’s okay for anyone to feel a little intimidated when they first start volunteering with children. Just don’t let that fear stop you from getting involved and making a difference.
- It doesn’t take a lot of time to make an impact. The players were mere hours away from tipoff against Team China and the chance to play in front of NCAA talent scouts from premier programs. If they were able to find the time to volunteer and impact the lives of over 100 children during their jam-packed (pun intended) weekend, we should all be able to do the same.
Huge thanks to our project partners ACCA Child Development Center and First Book for making this event fun and impactful for the children and our volunteers. Of course, none of this would be possible without our wonderful partnership with Nike and their desire to help student athletes give back in communities across the country. Follow the example set by this outstanding group of young athletes. Take the pledge to become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor today.