By RYAN LEE
On May 18, Not Your Average Basketball Camp (NYABC) organized its first-ever special-needs basketball clinic for the members of the Japanese-Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges (JSPACC) at the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center (SFVJACC) with support from the Rising Stars Alumni Committee (RSA).
Eleven players and over 30 volunteers participated in an hour-long camp that focused on having fun with the game of basketball. “It wasn’t our job to teach the kids about the game,” says Curtis Takimoto, co-founder of NYABC. “Our focus was on providing a safe and fun environment for these kids to explore basketball.”
Every participant was partnered with at least one “buddy” or volunteer. The group of volunteers consisted of past participants and friends of the Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program. This one-on-one pairing model was adapted from the successful Buddy Program cultivated by the RSA and the JSPACC over the past six years for annual events such as Pumpkin Carving and Holiday Shopping.
“The buddy system allows for safe exploration of not only the physical element of basketball, but also creates the more important aspect of socialization between participant and buddy,” says Ryan Lee, NYABC’s other co-founder.
During the basketball session of the camp, the participants experienced “exploratory time,” dribbling, and running drills with encouragement and guidance from the volunteers. The ability of the participants ranged from simply bouncing the ball and precision of aim and hand-eye coordination using a four-foot hoop to skillful defensive blocking and shooting three-point shots on a standard hoop.
All the volunteers expertly adjusted their interaction and support according to the participants’ abilities, which they gauged not only on the court but also through communication with the parents of the participants. The participants were all smiles as they challenged themselves in physical activity and had the opportunity to spend time with people outside of their day-to-day world.
Participant Ray Isozaki wrote in a note, “Basketball was so amazing… I did enjoy my time very well… It was so cool.”
After the basketball session, the event moved to a nearby classroom at the SFVJACC, where the San Fernando Valley Hawks basketball team sponsored a luncheon for the event. There were numerous Hawks players and parents busy serving the line of hungry participants, volunteers, and coaches.
Additional community support was provided by AOL Landscaping, who supplied a customized T-shirt for each participant, as well as San Fernando Athletics and Margaret Takimoto, who each supplied a four-foot hoop.
“It was a nice way to bring the community together. Watching the different groups of people socialize and develop relationships was rewarding,” says Curtis Takimoto, “and this is what the event was really about.”
The event was organized by NYABC and hosted at the SFVJACC, located at 12953 Branford St., Arleta, CA 91331, (818) 899-1989. For more information, visit www.sfvjacc.com/.
Support was provided by the Rising Stars Alumni Committee, part of the Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program, a six-month leadership program for high school students designed to train leaders and to inspire youth involvement in the Japanese American community. It is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization sponsored by the Nikkei Federation. The program is held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in historic Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.nikkeifederation.org/risingstars/.
The Japanese-Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges was started by a small group of Japanese-speaking parents in 1994. The main purpose of the organization is to assist the parents and families of children with special needs in the Japanese-speaking community. For more information, visit www.jspacc.org, email [email protected], or write to JSPACC, c/o Little Tokyo Service Center, 231 E. Third St., G-104, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
Ryan Lee and Curtis Takimoto are past participants of the Rising Stars 2 Youth Leadership Program, 2004-05.