Kids who attended basketball camp in Union City received a pleasant surprise when a special guest walked into the gym: NBA center Ennis Kanter.
Kanter and Union City officials have teamed up to host a one-day basketball camp as part of the city’s annual back-to-school celebration. Vince Williams, mayor of Union City, was present and watched the children’s reaction to seeing the NBA player in person.
“It shows that people like Anais Kanter, but also parents of the community, care enough about their children to ensure that they are exposed to individuals who come from similar circumstances,” Williams said. “This wonderful day that happened, these kids will never forget.”
The event was organized by Willie “Boo” Barber II, pastor of Prospect AME Church in Fortson, Georgia. The aim of the camp was to show how the community supports and encourages young people.
“Society begins by investing in our youth,” Barber stated. “It starts with them being so relevant to their lives, showing them not only that we know they exist, but that we actually see them and not only hear them but we listen to them. By showing young people that authoritative voices are happy to come and interact with them, it says ‘We believe in you.’”
When asked how Kanter got to Union City, Baber said it started with a mutual friend he met in Washington, D.C. “While we were in Washington, I reached out to this guy, and we became fast friends. We did a bunch of podcasts and other things related to with social justice. “And he called me about a month ago and said ‘Hey brother, would you like Enes to come and do some work with you?'”
Barber could not believe what he heard, but his friend explained how Kanter had never visited the state of Georgia, and that she had become a pioneer. Yes, Barber said, and a month later the Turkish NBA center arrived at Union City.
“No encounter is by chance,” Barber said of the events that began with the mutual friend. “There is always divine intervention, I think, that says you meet this person for a reason, and that person is important in your life.”
In addition to the basketball camp, the youths also received backpacks as they prepared to head back to school, along with a toy truck, pizza, and other outdoor activities. Kanter, who has been traveling around the state of Georgia, said he was happy to return the favor.
“Putting a smile on kids’ faces is priceless,” Kanter said. “We’re not just talking about basketball, we’re talking about healthy lifestyles, respect for others, education, and how to be a good teammate. I think it’s important to come here and try to inspire as many people as possible, especially children because they are going to be our future.”
The barber shared the same ideas, emphasizing the importance of dedicating time and effort to children.
“I encourage any and every organization to make sure that we dedicate spaces to invest in our youth, and to be patient with them,” Barber said. “And in the next 10 to 15 years, we won’t have to worry about leadership, because it will already be there.”