South Sixth St. play area to accommodate basketball camp, potluck, tournament

Mark Sevco, president of UPMC Hospitals, will return to Lebanon County in August to coach the inaugural Joseph P. Sevco Jr. basketball camp.

Sevco’s cousin Scott Laicha and high school friend Veronica Fick, who also spent much of their childhood on the South Sixth Street playground, will join him.

“We had rebuilt the courts – state-of-the-art basketball courts – which were part of the vision to create a safe place for young people to play basketball and relax,” Sevco said.

Since the inauguration of the court’s works last October, he added, “we have been able to raise additional funds. I contributed $20,000 myself through this. With the extra money we had, we wanted to start a basketball camp once a year.

A recent basketball tournament at the South Sixth Street playgrounds. (Provided by Sharon Zook)

Prior to the renovation of the basketball courts, the South Sixth Street Playground did not have a place to hold a basketball camp or tournament due to the layout of the pre-existing courts.

“We run a camp across the street for the kids in the summer,” said Sharon Zook, president of the South Sixth Street Playground Association. “We organize these camps, but we have nothing structured in the sport. This will therefore be the first time that we have organized a basketball camp.

Youth at South Sixth Street Playground Summer Camp. (Provided by Sharon Zook)

On August 10, 11, and 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the basketball camp for grades 3-8 will be held at the South Sixth Street Playground.

The camp strives to teach students the basics of basketball and life skills. Each day of camp will focus on one theme – kindness, faith and courage.

The coaches will also talk to young people about the importance of education.

“One of the goals of this basketball camp is to develop a love for a sport that will provide them with academic opportunities throughout their studies,” Zook said. “Kids who join school or community teams in middle school and high school have higher graduation rates, so it’s part of our focus on mental well-being, mind-body integration, and training. career that translates into achievement in school and in life.”

Basketball camp coaches have experience in basketball as well as coaching the sport. Sevco coached competitive AAU Sports basketball with his son for five years. Laicha was the head coach of the ELCO women’s basketball team for several years. And Fick is now the head coach of the Elizabethtown College women’s basketball team.

“For me personally, [the basketball camp] is an opportunity to pay it forward for the blessings I had spending time at and growing up at South Sixth Street Playground,” Sevco said. “I have worked with UPMC for 30 years. … I mentor and coach many doctors and executives, but I’m also passionate about mentoring young people.

The camp will provide students with lunch and beverages, a basketball, a t-shirt, and a commemorative medal.

Camp registration for the first 40 students is now open and free. All others will be on the waiting list.

Basketball camp registration forms. (Provided by Sharon Zook)

On August 11 at 6 p.m., the basketball camp will host a potluck for the Lebanese community. At the potluck, Spaulding Sole Savers will provide youth with back-to-school supplies.

“It will be a great outing for the community to remember that we are…one family,” Joshua Spaulding said.

A mental health foundation that focuses on prevention-based work with young people using sport, fitness and motivation, Spaulding Sole Savers’ mission is to change the narrative by destigmatizing the negative things young people are confronted. The association is 100% financed by associations.

For their second annual back-to-school giveaway, Spaulding Sole Savers will be giving away backpacks filled with different supplies including notebooks, pencils, crayons, markers and t-shirts from local businesses.

In addition, local barbers and hairdressers will be on hand to cut and style the hair of the youngsters and their guardians.

“The whole point behind the focus on how we look and things like that, just a little bit, is because confidence is the key to success,” Spaulding said. “As we think about going back to school, we want our kids to be able to look in the mirror and…stand up…and be confident.”

On August 12, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the basketball camp will hold a 3 on 3 tournament under the lights. Winning teams will receive prizes.

During the tournament, event sponsors, including individual sponsors and local organizations, churches and businesses, will be acknowledged.

Registration for the tournament is open now for youth and adults until August 7 and is free.

The basketball tournament registration form. (Provided by Sharon Zook)

“We just want it to be a celebration of Lebanon, really, as a great community,” Sevco said. “It’s a place I have a lot of respect and appreciation for. … I think we just want it to be a great story for Lebanon in terms of coming together and doing something positive for young people.

A clinical/community psychologist by day, Zook spoke about the importance of programs for young people to feel supported by their community. Additionally, she claimed that this sense of support can have positive effects on young people’s mental health and can help prevent mental health crises, which can save lives as mental health resources are limited.

Zook continued, “On top of all that [mental health, family, health] problems our children face, … there was a middle schooler [Jason Rivera] who was murdered in February, so we have mental health issues of troubled children who are dealing with this situation, losing a good friend, and there is no solution to this situation.

Joseph P. Sevco Jr. Basketball Camp organizers hope to continue the camp and tournament and possibly expand them in the future based on this year’s attendance, engagement and feedback.


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