There’s another website out there, Landmark Education News, which tends to write about projects undertaken by people who take Landmark courses which then end up in newspapers. I usually don’t try to do what they do, but I noticed a story about a basketball project on their website a while back, and then I received another story about the same project. I’m running that second story here because I think it shows something that is often missing when we hear about someone who does a great charity event or makes a difference in a big way somehow: what it really took to make it all happen. This story gets into the details of what this man was committed to, how he looked around for a way to make a difference, and how he became a partner of the local community to do it. Have some patience for it’s a bit of a long story – It’s from a newspaper titled the Mansfield News Mirror in the United States.
Mansfield athletes have it good.
The facilities in the district are top-notch, most are new. They have on-site training facilities, with weight rooms and trainers to deal with any injuries.
When Mike Jones, a former Mansfield High School basketball player, was taking part in a leadership training course for his job at ESPN that required a community project, he knew he wanted to get back into basketball.
Jones didn’t know what to do at first; he just knew that he wanted a service project that involved a low-income school and his Tigers.
He began to drive around Dallas, knowing that there were areas “that needed some help.”
He stopped at James Madison High School in Dallas in October and asked a parent wehre he could find a school that needed help with its facilities for a project he was working on.
The answer surprised him.
“I talked to Winfred Moore, a parent of one of the Madison players. I saw the boys walking back to the gym after leaving the track one morning. I asked if he knew of any schools that might be in need of help,” Jones said. “The parent said ‘Right here, help this team.’ And so I was led into the gym and into the locker rooms, and I could see that they needed help.
“The whole time I was driving around looking for a school, there was Madison right in front of me. It was a blind spot.”
Jones went to talk to the coaching staff and the principals and then the athletic director, asking what they needed.
The locker rooms needed some upkeep. The coaching staff’s office was small, and if the kids wanted to watch film, they had to crowd into a tiny room with a tiny television.
And so “Basketball United” was born.
The idea behind the project is to rehab locker rooms in need of help. Madison has 15 varsity players and 27 junior varsity players crammed into a place intended for much smaller teams.
They have carpet floors, old lockers and broken blinds. The project calls for putting down tile, putting in cabinets and bringing in new and improved video equipment.
But Jones wanted to include his alma mater, at one point coming up with the idea of helping Mansfield High School in the project.
“I knew I wanted to involve Mansfield, and I called up coach (Richie) Alfred and passed the idea by of helping out one school and helping out the Tigers,” Jones said. “Coach Alfred was all over the idea, but insisted that we help out the Madison kids, because the Mansfield kids already had great facilities. He liked the idea of his kids involved in something outside of basketball, and has been a big supporter of community service in the past.”
So on the last Saturday in January, Mansfield will travel to Madison to help some fellow gym rats.
It also comes with a hidden bonus for both Madison and Mansfield players.
“We are actually going to be hosting a basketball skills camp on that day in the gym. We are going to have the kids rotate between working out and working in the locker rooms,” Jones said. “Cameron Hill and Bob Hill are going to run the camp. They have been around college basketball for years as players and coaches, so the kids should just get phenomenal instruction from the Hills.
The project will cost approximately $5,000 to complete. Most of that money has come in the form of donations, but supplies for the project have also been offered.
Radio Shack donated a television, stereo and DVD player for the locker room. Pizza Hut will donate the food for the players and workers, and Jones feels confident that other supplies will be donated in time for the work day.
“We are still raising money, but we are getting a lot of stuff donated,” Jones said. “Everyone involved has been great and helpful. James Madison has been great, the parents from both schools have been great and the booster clubs have been very supportive.”
And once the project is complete Jan. 31, the work might not stop.
“Right now, I’m very focused on this. Once it is completed, I’m sure there is something else we can do,” Jones said. “I was recently attending a booster club meeting, and the track coach at Madison explained that there is only $1,000 available in the budget for spring sports.”
The $1,000 goes toward every sort in the spring, including track, baseball, softball and others. The money is used to register for tournaments and meets and buy equipment for the athletes.
“To just go to a track meet, it is going to cost $300. And that doesn’t include lodging or going out of Dallas for a meet, which could cost $5000,” Jones said. “After growing up in Mansfield where we could go anywhere for meets or games, that is amazing to me. I never thought that could happen anywhere. It’s crazy, but situations like this really inspire me to help.”