Perkins Visits Camp for Moore Children

On May 20, Briarwood Elementary School student Mason MacDonald was trapped under a pile of rubble. It was a horrifying moment that those affected by the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma can empathize with, but fortunately for Mason, he was recovered from the wreckage and was reunited with his family.

Nearly a month later, Mason was one of 100 children aged 5-16 to participate in a Thunder Youth Basketball Camp at Mid-America Christian University in south Oklahoma City. The camp, one of many being held this summer, was free to any Moore students who attended Briarwood Elementary, Plaza Towers Elementary and Highland East Junior High. After Wednesday’s session was over, Mason’s mother Lindsay was grateful for a chance for her child to get a much-needed spirit-lifter.

“We can’t go anywhere without driving past the destruction and being reminded daily of what they’ve gone through,” Lindsay MacDonald said. “This has been something for them to look forward to and a way to just see their friends again, get together, spend time and get to meet people they admire. That’s been really fun for them and they get to play a sport that they love.”

Wednesday was an extra special day of camp for these children from Moore, because Thunder center Kendrick Perkins dropped by to answer questions, interact with them on the basketball court and sign autographs for each and every camper. Perkins, who is always particularly engaging with the children he meets with at community events, made sure to spend quality time with as many campers as possible to help them learn some lessons, have fun and enjoy their day.

“Anytime I come out I just feel like brightening up the kids’ days and their moment,” Perkins said. “I grew up in a community where I didn’t have a chance to have a professional athlete or any type of professional come in and speak to me. I know a lot of the kids look up to us, so I just try to come in and encourage them to keep going, keep working hard and keep building.”

“(This camp is) key,” Perkins continued. “It’s a great thing that the kids get to come and relax and just get away from all of that. I use basketball as my sanctuary. They can do the same thing. It’s good. You have a nice supportive group here, people that really care. That’s the most important thing.”

It was fitting that this special camp for Moore children was held at MACU, because in the hours immediately following the tornado, the campus and particularly the gymnasium became a relief area and a home base for first responders. More than 20 members of the student body, staff and faculty were directly affected by the tornadoes, yet MACU felt the need to do everything in its power to help citizens in need.

That effort continues today, as the gymnasium is being used during the day to help Moore children enjoy a basketball camp, and at night where it serves as a staging area and a place to store supplies for the recovery. This is the third consecutive year MACU has hosted the camp, but Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Dr. Eric Anthony Joseph said this one has been the most rewarding yet.

“What makes it special this year is because of the tornado that went through and devastated Moore,” Joseph said. “Since we’re one of the closest universities to Moore, it makes it a little special for us to host it this year. I don’t know how many of our kids here.”

“This has just been an added bonus for us just to open our doors, not only as a relief center but also a place for the kids to come,” Joseph continued. “Now in the evenings, this place is a relief center and when the kids are here it’s filled with joy and Thunder love.”

The excitement was clearly amplified by Perkins’ visit, as the children and parents alike clapped when he walked into the gymnasium. The kids’ energy was barely contained during the question-and-answer session and the campers were delighted when Perkins consented to their request that he throw down a monster dunk.

While the Thunder center is known for his intensity on the court, but it was his trademark smile and kindness on display Wednesday, which was the perfect treat to young Mason, who now has a positive memory to help him get past a terrible one from last month.

“My older son Mason plays on a youth league team here and he’s the center,” MacDonald said. “So he was loving this. He even practices the Perkins face. He was so excited to meet him and it really made his whole week.”