When Lawrence Hamm II
, senior manager of sports development and strategy at Destination DC, started his basketball camp in 2009 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he didn’t quite know what to expect.
The former Harrisburg High star had spent time overseas playing basketball in Prague and wanted to offer kids in his community a way to gain valuable life skills that they otherwise may not have a chance to learn.
“The camp started as an idea my father and I came up with to give back to these kids,” Hamm says. “But we knew we needed a platform and basketball was that platform.”
Flash forward a decade and Hamm Camp is the largest free camp in Pennsylvania, supporting approximately 300 Harrisburg youth each summer. Hamm has switched to a larger venue and the camp is now spread out over two weeks with two different age groups.
“It’s grown to a point where we’ve got the YMCA involved,” he says. “We’ve got the Boys and Girls Club involved and it’s really taken off.”
Hamm says that while basketball is the vehicle, he wants kids to learn skills that will better equip them as they grow up and enter into society.
Rite of Passage
In stepped the American Experience Foundation and the Student and Youth Travel Association.
AEF is a charity associated with Destination DC, while STYA organizes student trips across the nation.
Each year, they sponsor a three-day cultural immersion field trip to Washington D.C. called the Rite of Passage field trip
, held in March this year.
This year, they worked with Hamm to sponsor a free trip for 30 middle school aged kids to visit the nation’s capital.
“We like the idea of being able to create and support these types of opportunities,” AEF Executive Director Claire Carlin says of the trip. “In the case of the Hamm Camp, we had an obvious partner sitting right here in our office.”
Hamm says that the trip is an opportunity to expose not only the kids, but also some of the chaperones and staff to experiences they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to see.
Over the course of the three days, the students got a chance to see landmarks such as the National Mall, attend a Capital City Go-Go NBA G League Game and take a dinner cruise on the Spirit of Washington.
“The level in which this trip was organized, from the buses and the meals and the hotels to experiences themselves, opened their eyes to things they’d never experienced before,” Hamm says.
Hamm went on to say that he hopes the trip was something that emboldened the students to seek further experiences.
“I think there are so many things that I hope they take with them,” he says. “I hope they open their minds to travel. And the second thing I hope is that they realize there are great organizations down here to take the time to invest in them.”
Photo Credit: Dani Fresh