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WATCH: One Orange Sphere Brings the Linden Community Together

June 6, 2023 -- The Linden community gathered for the Summer Tip-Off Youth Basketball Camp to promote teamwork, build relationships, keep bodies healthy, and boost self-esteem. It was a free one-day event for the community that spread positivity through basketball.

“Having interaction with the community is everything,” said Linden-McKinley STEM Academy (LMSA) Panthers Boys Basketball Coach Kevin Darthard Jr. “Changing the [LMSA] boys basketball program on and off the court was a dream of mine since I got the job of coach five years ago.” 

Youth from Ohio State University’s LiFEsports camp at Beatty, Linden, and William H. Adams Community Centers traveled to one central Linden location – LMSA. Children in the surrounding community but not involved in LiFEsports were also invited to participate in the event hosted by the Columbus Division of Police. 

LMSA Panthers basketball players and CPD officers joined more than 70 athletes ages 9-11 for an afternoon of skills, drills, and some good old-fashioned five-on-five.

“Kids in the community need to see peers that are leaders so they can look up to them, see them, be able to touch them, play with them, interact with them, and understand that these kids they are seeing are right here from Linden,” Darthard said. 

Darthard is referring to his team of high school players who are positive role models to the youth. They are strong academically and involved in community service and philanthropy.

As soon as the young athletes stepped on the court, Darthard led them through a challenging warmup. While athletes were catching their breath and gulping water, former LMSA Panthers Christopher Towns spoke encouraging words to the youth on the court. Towns received a full academic scholarship to Virginia State University, where he’ll enroll in the fall. His brother, Phillip Towns, a rising LMSA senior, was also there to offer words of encouragement and assist at the camp.

Athletes were divided by age and put through stations to focus on their dribbling, passing, and shooting game led by officers, LMSA players, or LMSA coaches. The camp concluded with five-on-five basketball games.  

“When I was a kid, it wasn’t the professionals, but the high school athletes who were my idols,” said Columbus Police Officer Michael Traversa. “I saw them at school, and I went to every Friday night football game and every basketball game. I knew all the high school kids as if they were professionals. I know how much of an impact high school kids can have on the youth. Our main goal was to get the youth in front of the high school kids while they partner with the [CPD] and bring everybody together.”

The idea for the camp started when Traversa wanted to do something to kick off summer in the area he patrolled. He wanted it to be for the community, student-athletes, and CPD. 

Knowing the success of the LMSA boys’ basketball team, Traversa contacted his old high school buddy Zach Fleer who runs 270 Hoops hoping Fleer knew the LMSA coach.

“Officer Mike contacted me saying that he wanted to do something with the Linden community and positive interaction with the police department,” Darthard said. “He wanted to do it through sports, specifically basketball, because he played basketball, and I said – absolutely! We thought of some ideas, threw them around, and I said, ‘You know, why not run a one-day basketball camp? Do some clinics, drills, and skills in the morning. Then let them play in the afternoon, get police interaction, and be able to talk to police officers outside with a cruiser.’”

“We just want good relationships between the youth, their role models within the community, and then us as officers,” Traversa said. “Us officers are also in the community, but we want them to see us in a different light than just our uniforms and badges.”

Traversa and Darthard said after an hour-long conversation, they merged their ideas to form the Summer Tip-Off Youth Basketball Camp; they now hope it turns into a yearly event to start the summer.  

“I am grateful to be able to partner with so many different entities in the community and bring various things together,” Darthard said. “I’m already excited for next year.”

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 1 - AdaptabilityPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 3 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 4 - Critical ThinkingPortrait Attribute 5 - Global EmpathyPortrait Attribute 6 - Technology