World renowned as the birthplace of reggae icon Bob Marley, the village of Nine Mile in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica will host a goodwill mission Saturday for underprivileged children spearheaded by Basketball Hall of famer Wali Jones.
Cedella Marley Booker School, named after the reggae superstar’s mother, will be the feature stop for Jones and Tournament of Champions, Inc. founder Wesley Frater during a six-day swing through Jamaica.
Frater and Jones will hand out donations and conduct a “Shoot for the Stars” basketball clinic, geared toward improving life skills.
Jones, a key member of the Philadelphia 76ers’ 1966-67 NBA championship team and former member of the Miami Heat front office, said the poverty Jamaican school children face trumps anything he has witnessed in the United States.
“Nothing really compares to how poor those areas in Jamaica are,” Jones said. “It hurts me to see the kids living under those conditions. The schools don’t have the basic facilities that we have in the United States. Our camp is not just about basketball, it’s about human development and making a championship living out of these young people. All these kids want to know is that somebody else cares about them when they don’t have that much.”
Through the efforts of Frater, who was recently honored for his philanthropic efforts by the Consul General of Jamaica, children will receive a shipment of clothing, books and backpacks donated by the likes of former Heat All-Stars Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway – a current Miami Heat community liaison, two-time NBA champion Udonis Haslem, Tim James, Heat assistant coach Keith Askins and several local high school athletic programs.
Haslem, Hardaway, Caron Butler, Jason Kapono, Tim James and Rasual Butler are among NBA players Frater has recruited for his island hop goodwill missions.
Upon his visit to Jamaica for a skills camp years ago, Hardaway got a glimpse of the other side of the tourist hotbed, where poverty-stricken children live in squalor.
“These kids are doing anything they can to survive,” Hardaway said. “It’s unfortunate that due to the economy they have to live like that. Just to see them try on some shoes was a big thing because it meant they didn’t have to worry about cutting their feet or walking on the hot pavement. Their confidence level went up. They walked with pride.”