Operation UNITE basketball camps in eastern Kentucky canceled

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Stock photo from Operation UNITE Shoot Hoops Not Drugs summer basketball camps in eastern Kentucky

SOMERSET, Ky. (WTVQ) – Because of concerns related to the coronavirus, Operation UNITE announced its popular Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camps planned for June have, regrettably, been cancelled.

“This is not something UNITE wanted to do, but following the guidance from Governor Andy Beshear and state health officials it is something we must do at this time,” said Nancy Hale, president/CEO of the non-profit organization.

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“In addition, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are entirely supported through community donations and staffed by volunteers from UNITE Coalitions and our recovery communities,” Hale continued. “With so much economic uncertainty, this was not the time to solicit donations that could, instead, be used to support needy families and local businesses.”

“A crowd is still going to be a dangerous thing until we are further along in defeating this virus,” Beshear stated during is daily COVID-19 briefing on April 29. “It’s something we need to continue to avoid.”

Although he outlined a tentative plan to restart some businesses and permit social gatherings by late May, the governor said it would likely be late June or early July before some youth sports activities are again allowed.

Five free regional basketball camps – conducted by former University of Kentucky point guard and four-time All-SEC Academic Team member Jarrod Polson – had been planned in Breathitt, Harlan, Johnson, Magoffin and McCreary counties.

“The Shoot Hoops Not Drugs program has been a highlight of my summer the last several years,” Polson stated. “While I am saddened we won’t be able to host the basketball camps this year, I look forward to being back in 2021!”

Hale said it is UNITE’s intention to hold the 2021 camps in the same counties as planned for this year.

“Our staff has contacted each of the superintendents and they are in full support of the decision to postpone camps this summer,” Hale said. “In addition, they look forward to holding Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps next year.”

This would have been the 15th season for Shoot Hoops Not Drugs. These camps provide school-age youth an opportunity to interact with positive role models, receive positive life-skill and self-esteem messages that emphasize the importance for them to stay drug-free, all while receiving basic basketball skills instruction.

As part of each camp, parents and guardians are invited to attend a brief education program. This year the focus would have been about the dangers posed by stimulant drugs – including such commonly used drugs as Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Adderall, and Ecstasy.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.