DECATUR – Kristoffer Collins-Brown likes to read. His cousins like to play basketball.
They urged him to come and play with them so often that he finally gave in.
“I said, 'If I do it, will you stop bugging me?' ” said Kristoffer, 12, who will be in seventh grade at the Lutheran School Association in the fall. He's participating in Faith Fellowship's BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) Fundamental Basketball Camp, going on this week at SkyWalker International Sports in downtown Decatur.
It turns out he's good at basketball, and while the game hasn't dimmed his love of books at all, it's something else to add to his busy summer schedule. Coming up, he has another basketball camp and band camp. He's joined his school team. And, he said, he has found that he enjoys the game as much as his cousins do.
The Rev. Wayne Dunning, pastor of Faith Fellowship, solicits donations from area businesses and individuals so that he can offer the camp at no cost to the kids and their families, and he reminded them of that during camp.
“These people said it's important that you come to this camp and they said, 'Pastor Dunning, here's my check,' ” Dunning told the kids.
While the camp is about basketball, and the kids spend plenty of time being coached on basketball skills, that's only a small part of the overall program. Dunning teaches the youngsters life skills and Christian values, too.
On Wednesday, for example, the students put on reflective vests, protective gloves, and grabbed trash bags. They walked around downtown Decatur picking up trash.
“Service is the soul's highest purpose,” Dunning said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. “We're talking today about community service, about serving the community and loving Decatur, wherever they go.”
He introduces new words to them, too, and Wednesday's word was “attrition.” He used that one when he pointed out that significantly more kids attended on Monday than attended on Wednesday, when they knew picking up trash was on the schedule. Those kids, he said, weren't willing to stick to a thing they had signed up for unless it was all fun and no work. After the kids had finished picking up trash, before they walked back to SkyWalker, he gathered them around him and talked to them about taking care of their community and being good citizens, taking pride in the cleanliness of their own neighborhood and homes.
“Clean up your room without being asked,” he said. “Don't wait for your brother or your sister or your mom and dad to do something. You do it.”
Dunning was once a standout player for Millikin University and continues to coach, in addition to serving as a substitute teacher and pastor. One of his favorite things to say to the kids, which they repeat to each other, is “What are you doing walking? Basketball players don't walk. They run!”
Dunning's niece, Lanae Davis, is visiting from Las Vegas, which she also did last year, but wasn't able to participate in the camp then. This year she can, and Uncle Wayne has made a real difference in her basketball skills, she said.
“I'm throwing better and playing better than I did before,” said Lanae, 13, who will be in eighth grade in the fall.