L&G Camp of Champs seeks to help prepare local Boys and Girls Club members for exciting futures

Published 4:59 pm Monday, August 1, 2016


AMERICUS – Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Americus-Sumter County were treated to a very special experience between July 26-28.
The L&G “Camp of Champs” made its local debut this past week, offering local youths from grades K-12 more than just an education in sports fundamentals.
The program, which was offered free of charge, seeks to engage kids, offering training on the basketball court as a means to install an even more important lesson; the importance of building strong character.
Co-founded by Olympic Gold Medalist, Lea Henry, and her husband, former Denver Nuggets shooting guard, Greg Manning, the camp is described as a character education program, incorporating life skills and basketball clinics to help inspire youths to stay physically fit as well as develop confidence and learn lessons that will help aid them in developing better citizenship skills.
Manning recently took a break between camp training sessions to speak with the Times-Recorder.
Asked how the program began, Manning said, “[My wife, Lea Henry, and I] got this started about 13 years ago. We’ve been running basketball camps for 30 years and we decided that we would add an element of character education to these camps. This all started through large grants that the federal government has for public schools. Most of what we do is through the 21st Century grant (which is offered to educational institutions to help provide academic enrichment in public schools). We go all over the country and we share in a basketball atmosphere because that’s what we love to do. That’s who we are. That’s our background. That helps to keep the kids’ attention while we get through the character education curriculum, which is what we’re doing with this group [in Americus].”

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:   Foreground: Older participants in the L&G Camp of Champs take part in shooting drills while the camp’s younger participants take part in running drills in the background.

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:
Foreground: Older participants in the L&G Camp of Champs take part in shooting drills while the camp’s younger participants take part in running drills in the background.

“We talk about things like respecting authority, setting long and short-term goals, preparing for opportunities, and the importance of school,” he continued. “These are all things that a lot of us take for granted that these young people may not be getting. We build an atmosphere where they have fun and they enjoy themselves. You don’t have to know anything about basketball to participate. It’s something that we provide; some activities so that we can help provide this character education curriculum.”
“It’s a little different, this week, because my wife and I also started a foundation where we’ll go into communities that do not have access to the 21st Century grant and we’ll hold about five to eight of these camps per year each summer where we’ll come in and fund the whole thing through our foundation,” Manning concluded. “We just left Lee County… Next week, we’ll be going to Tampa, Fla.”
Shirley Green Reese, President of the Americus-Sumter County Boys and Girls Club, and Brittany Dawson, the organization’s Chief Professional Officer, spoke with the Times-Recorder during the camp session as well.
“Right now, we have about 36 kids participating in the Camp for Champs,” Dawson said. They are members of our local Boys and Girls Club.
Reese added that, although the camp is sponsored by the local organization, they have opened enrollment in the camp to other clubs in nearby cities as well as interested parties who may not be members of the club. “We are just opening up to the whole community on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club,” she said.
Both interviewees expressed their thanks to Henry and Manning for providing this opportunity to local kids.
“The kids are going through different circuits of training, including education,” Reese stated. “The participants split up, according to age group and practice different drills. They have a specialized instructor in charge of each one of those groups.”
The individuals overseeing each station each have an extensive background in both athletics and education, according to one of the camp’s coaches. The program’s instructional staff is made up of coaches from both secondary school and collegiate levels, as well as student-athletes from Albany and the surrounding areas.
Asked if she would like to offer the program again in the future, Reese answered, “Yes, by all means.”
“They also provide gifts to the students and T-shirts,” Reese continued. “The training is excellent, particularly for the students who are interested in playing basketball in high school and college. You never know. One of these kids here today may go on to become a professional athlete. We’re looking forward to seeing what these kids will do in the future. That’s what the Boys and Girls Club of Americus-Sumter County is all about… Educating, training, and protecting.”
Lea Henry has 32 years of experience as a basketball coach, five of which were spent at Darton College in Albany. Henry played college basketball at the University of Tennessee for legendary UT coach, Pat Summitt, and later went on to earn a spot on the 1984 United States women’s national basketball team, earning a gold medal for her role as a point guard on the team. That victory marked the US women’s first gold-medal Olympic finish in basketball.
Manning was considered a standout player at the University of Maryland. He was later drafted to play for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and, since leaving the NBA, has been involved in sports administration.
“This has been our life. This is what we’ve done. I got involved in athletic administration when I got back from playing and, 13 years ago, decided, ‘This is what I’d like to do.’”
Manning and his wife have devoted their time and resources to providing educational and sports training to youths around the country ever since.