NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There was a double-treat for kids in East Harlem as they kicked off the first day of summer camp Thursday.
They were met with a generous donation, plus a visit from an NBA star, who developed his basketball skills in Brooklyn.
It’s not every day you get slam-dunk help from a professional basketball player, but 6-year-old Christopher Clark is one lucky kid.
“Cool, yeah!” he said.
He was one of the 60 children at Union Settlement who met and played ball with Taj Gibson, of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“They are always busy, busy doing celebrity stuff, and for them to actually take the time and to come here, specifically to Union Settlement, that’s actually a dream come true,” said 11-year-old Shown Bowens, of the Bronx.
“I have never seen a basketball player before,” a little boy added.
Gibson is 6 feet 9 inches tall, but his height has nothing to do with the reason the kids look up to him – it’s because of what he’s accomplished.
“It kind of feels surreal, because I was once in that position,” he said.
Most of the children live in public housing, just like he did when he grew up in Brooklyn. He said the camps he attended in his community helped him become the man he is today.
“Through those ups and downs and the neighborhood pushing me, it just molded me into the guy that I never thought I would be,” he said. “I never thought I would be in the NBA, but the community helped me get here.”
Local developer Orbach Group also donated $25,000 to the camp Thursday, vowing to match up to $50,000. The funds will help the camp tremendously, since it’s funded by the city and free for the 500 kids that participate.
“It actually makes the difference in the program, because the funding that we have from the city is not sufficient to run the kind of enriched programs that we want to have,” said Executive Director of the camp David Nocenti.
The program has been around for more than a decade, and with this kind of help, it won’t be going away anytime soon.
Gibson wears No. 67 on his jersey to honor his elementary school, P.S. 67.