Coach Sampson Plays A Big Role In Supporting Camouflage Kids Program
June 14, 2007
Elkhart, Indiana - One of the first things you notice on the front page of the Web site for Camouflage Kids is the quote at the top of the page. It comes for Indiana men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and reads, "There's not a thing I wouldn't do for our Army. They're my heroes."
This past week, Sampson and several prominent sports personalities joined New York Knicks Director of Scouting and project founder Jeff Nix at the home of retired businessman and U.S. Army veteran Ray Stults for a barbecue to raise money for this program.
"Jeff Nix, who coordinates this event, is a long-time friend of mine through the college basketball ranks," Sampson said. "He has been a scout and front office guy for the New York Knicks for a long time. When he called me and told me about it, I wasn't quite sure what it was. Having gone to Kuwait twice, I found out that it was dealing with the children of military personnel that are on active duty and giving them a chance to go out and experience things that normally they would with their mothers and fathers that are deployed in the Middle East. It's just another opportunity to reach out and help."
The program began in 2005 when Nix purchased season basketball tickets to the U.S. Air Force Academy to support Jeff Bzdelik, his friend and head coach. He then donates them to the kids at Fort Carson.
In 2006, Nix and his business partner, Stults, decided to do more for the kids at Fort Carson and hold a fundraising event for The Home Front Cares to purchase tickets to Air Force football and basketball games.
In what proves to be an atypical backyard summer BBQ, a coaching roster including Sampson, Bzdelik, Tom Izzo, Digger Phelps, Skip Prosser, Tom Crean and Mike Brey helps to raise enough money to send more than 1,000 kids to Air Force athletic events.
This year, the mission grows to include the children of Fort Carson, Fort Bragg and Fort Benning, as well as the Indiana National Guard and Indiana Marine Corps. Ten major colleges and athletic departments join in and The Camo Kids cause is born.
Sampson is especially proud of the fact the IU is now on board and the children of soldiers from Indiana will have a chance to see the Hoosiers up close and in person. In 2005 and 2006, Sampson was part of an elite coaching fraternity which participated in the Operation Hardwood Basketball Tournament in Kuwait.
"I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be able to help people in the military," Sampson said. "This is a great opportunity to raise money to help kids. We do a lot for our soldiers, but this is an opportunity to help the children of our soldiers."
At this week's event Sampson, who is joined by Brey, Bzdelik, Crean and Izzo as Division I coaches who are on the Board of Directors, were joinedside by side with dignitaries such as Mike Ditka and fellow college coaches Homer Drew (Valparaiso), Dane Fife (IPFW), Steve Hawkins (Western Michigan), Stan Joplin (Toledo), Matt Painter (Purdue), Jeff Reynolds (Air Force), Brad Stevens (Bulter) and Jerry Wainwright (DePaul).
"I'm proud of the other coaches that are participating in this event from Mike Brey, to Tom Crean and Tom Izzo," Sampson said. "This year, they had Mike Ditka coming in. I don't know Mike Ditka, but it tells me a little bit about him that he would be willing to take his time to lend to this event. It's moving, too. We have soldiers that come in and talk about what's it like being away from their families. That just motivates you even more to want to help as much as you can."
To learn more about the program, visit www.camokids.org.
Check back soon