Michael grew up in one of the most impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods in Nassau, The Bahamas. When he first attended Basketball Smiles Camp as a 6th grader at H.O. Nash Jr. High School, he had no shoes and played on the asphalt outdoor basketball court in shower slides.
Coach Patty Johnson told Coach Sam, “Michael’s a great young man and a good student whose family has basically nothing. That’s the only footwear he has.“
Coach Sam Nichols felt compelled to give Michael a pair of real basketball shoes – the extra pair Coach Sam had tucked into his suitcase just in case – and Michael’s eyes lit up with joy!
Michael continued to be an outstanding student at Nash, but Coach Sam lost track of him after he went to high school. At our 2018 camp, Coach Patty had a message from Michael.
“He wanted me to invite you to his college graduation – from Auburn University,” she told Coach Sam. “He earned an academic scholarship and will be receiving his degree in business administration. He wanted you to know and to come celebrate with him if you could.” Coach Sam says it is one of the greatest moments he’s had since Basketball Smiles began, knowing that because of the program Michael received the first pair of real shoes he ever owned and has gone on to pursue a college education. In 2022 Michael stopped in on camp. Coach Sam congratulated him on having earned an academic scholarship and graduating from from Auburn University. “I did more than that,” Michael said. “I’ve got two master’s degrees!” And Michael’s not through yet!
He is proof that Basketball Smiles campers are motivated to achieve personally and academically and that together we DO make a difference in the lives of the children we serve.