Feeling at Home in Camden, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey. What do you think about when you hear someone mention this city? Probably what I used to think. Guns. Drugs. Untapped potential. But that was the old me. The person who had never driven down Federal Ave. to the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County or cruised down 7th Street to the North Camden Community Center. I had never hung out with Jose Martinez, his brother Ray, or Guy Still. I had never hung out with over a hundred kids ages 6-13 who were the same as any other 6-13 year olds in the country. Nor had I been part of a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. Many of them in college studying to be businessmen or engineers or broadcasters.

This is the Camden that I know now. A city where those with opportunity are taking full advantage, and there is a pride for all things Camden. So what exactly did we do? We got to run a one day basketball camp at the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County and met some awesome men and women, including Guy Still, the Director of the Club. Guy was born and raised in Camden, left to work in the entertainment industry, but came back because he wanted to help his community. He is the director at what has quickly become a pillar of the Camden community.

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Saturday was spent helping Ray and Jose Martinez run a one day basketball tournament for young men ages 16-24. The camp was in honor or Ray’s son, who was also named Ray. The younger Ray died tragically in 2009 from unnecessary violence. From the stories we heard, Ray Jr. was an amazing young man full of promise and talent, especially on the basketball court. Instead of blaming the world for such a tragedy, Ray and his brother Jose started a basketball league in his son’s honor. This basketball league helps keep kids off the streets, steers them away from a life of violence, and in a number of cases into college.

When asked about the sullen circumstances surrounding the creation of his league, Ray looked straight at me and said he believes his son Ray helped the lives of hundreds of kids as well. He said one died but 80 have lived because of their league.

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The mayor of Camden, Miss Dana Redd, even came out to watch the games. This is the Camden I know now and I encourage anyone who is going near there to contact me so you can meet some of these amazing humans.

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Posted by Brett

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