Mendy Stotts had a vision, one where she could blend her two loves – her faith and basketball – into a way to help children. Shoot for Heaven basketball camp was created last summer and in just one year, it’s grown to include over 100 kids.
Stotts, with the help of local basketball teams and guest speakers, concluded the free three-day camp Thursday. Each day had over 100 kids show up at Westwood church, where they learned fundamental basketball, how to be a good teammate and, most importantly to Stotts, how to build a relationship with Jesus.
“When I decided to do this camp last summer, I wanted to be able to give the kids in our community a fun way of growing closer to Jesus,” said Stotts. “As a child growing up, I always loved sports, especially basketball. Research shows that structured activity such as playing basketball is highly linked to a positive academic, behavioral, psychological and young adult outcomes.”
Instead of having a straight basketball camp though, one the longtime hooper and WCHS assistant girls coach is more than qualified to run, Stotts wanted it to be more.
“I wanted this camp experience to be something more. I wanted to give these kids exposure to Jesus, exposure to Christian principles like treating others with respect, kindness, dealing with adversities and treating others like you would want to be treated,” said Stotts.
With that, Stotts stopped action each day to have a guest speaker. Richard O’Connor, Chris Perry and Pieter van Vuuren all spoke to the group.
Perry’s message Tuesday focused on how God is more important than anything else while stressing four qualities for any athlete – being competitive and respectful, being determined, being honest and working hard. On Thursday, van Vuuren talked about being a good teammate and how a good teammate would resemble the actions of Jesus.
The messages didn’t stop there. Stotts also talked about what it takes to be a champion, having good body language on and off the court and dealing with bullying behaviors.
And there was lots of ice cream.
Sweet treats were always around for the kids after their workouts, which were guided Monday by the WCMS basketball team. On the following two days, the WCHS girls and boys basketball teams served as tutors. To Stotts, it was important to get young leaders in front of the crowd of kids going into grades 1-5.
“Players from WCMS and WCHS have all been able to take on mentor and leadership roles in camp,” said Stotts. “This gives these young kids positive role models to look up to as they interact with them. The older kids signed autographs and played with them in camp games.”
Stotts hopes to continue the camp in the future. With the size doubling in just a year, she feels the response justifies trying to continue to spread the message.
“I know God has big plans for this ministry and it will continue to grow.”