Inside the Skyview Middle School gymnasium, over 70 kids as young as seven and as old as 13 battled for loose balls, learned how to shoot, rebound and pass, and most importantly learned how to communicate with each other. The Portland Trail Blazers, who visited Bend for two days, was part of their KIA Make It Better Statewide Summer Tour.
Friday’s camp was part of the Blazers’ second trip to Bend in the last two years, and the last leg of a trip that saw them visit Boise, Pendleton and the J Bar J Ranch in Bend.
Led by Adrian Stelly, Portland’s Basketball Outreach Coordinator, the kids ran laps around the gym and did tough exercises to loosen them up for the camp’s drills.
“This gives the kids a chance to come out and see the Blazers and just have some fun,” Stelly said.
Joe Trujillo, a parent who brought his son and 3 other kids to the camp, said that he would absolutely go to another camp the next time it is in town.
“They keep the kids moving constantly,” Trujillo said as the Blazers ran the kids through line drills, where after each whistle blast the campers dive to the floor. “It’s good to get the kids out of the house especially in the summer. It’s good that it’s free too because a lot of camps like this cost a lot of money.”
The KIA Make It Better Tour started when Harry Glickman, the founder of the Trail Blazers, recruited legendary Portland play by play announcer Bill Schonely to start a radio network. After Schonley recruited 13 affiliates in Oregon and southwest Washington, the The Trail Blazers “Make It Better” Statewide Summer Tour was born.
“So much of our program is reaching out to kids and connecting,” said Bill Evans, director of Corporate Communications. “What I hope is that events like this remind Blazers fans that we’re Oregon’s team, we’re not just Portland’s team.”
For this particular event, The Blazers collaborated with Bend Parks and Recreation to coordinate pre-registration. And the popular fast food restaurant, Burgerville, provided free burgers and chips to the children after the event reached its conclusion.
“The thing you can control is your brand and how you treat your fanbase.” Evans said, pointing to events like the Statewide Summer Tour as the reason why the Blazers have such a loyal and lasting fan base.
Team Ambassador and legendary Trailblazer forward Jerome Kersey was present at the event to help run the kids through the camp. The 17 year veteran said that, “It’s all about giving back to the community,” Kersey also explained, “anytime you can go into the community and teach some great social skills, like listening and learning, alongside basketball, it means everything to the kids.”
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