At over six feet tall, Malcolm Dixon towers over campers on the basketball court at Southeastern Stokes Middle School. His stature could seem overwhelming, but Dixon’s warm personality shines through as children flock around to learn the former basketball player’s secrets.
Last week, about 50 campers from ages 5-15 flocked to Project Uth 360’s Holiday Activity Camp, which included basketball and dancing activities. The purpose of the camp is simple, said Dixon, president of the organization. It’s all about, “recreation, service and education.”
“The camp is a great opportunity to meet new people, learn values and be the person you want to be,” he said. “We want children to realize that there are doors out there that can be opened.”
The camp is not all about basketball or dancing; it is also about education. The camp included guest speakers from the area, who talked to students about achieving success — not only in sports, but life.
“We’re trying to plant seeds here,” Dixon said. “We don’t measure success in baskets. Not everyone will be professional athletes, but all of them can get a diploma.”
Volunteer Dr. Dana Dalton agrees.
“Education is the key,” she said. Dalton said that the camp encourages kids to see what the possibilities are and how to dream big.
Dalton said that the community needs role models to help children build character and learn life skills.
Role models like Melvin Mayberry, a former college basketball standout, who is volunteering with the project.
“It’s a blessing to come here and work with kids,” he said.
Mayberry said it was fulfilling to be a positive influence on children and see kids learn and grow.
“Basketball is a sport where you’ve got to learn to work together,” he said. “It teaches you how to not be selfish. Those same values you can take into the community and the classroom. It helps all the way around.”
Dixon, who served in the Peace Corps during the mid-1990s and played professional basketball in Honduras, said that he dreamed Project Uth 360 up as a way to give back to the community. It was in the Peace Corps that Dixon developed a love for volunteering, which continued after returning stateside.
Project Uth 360 is made up of about 10 volunteers at this point, but Dixon said he hopes the program will continue to grow with the support of the community. He said the program is also currently seeking non-profit status, which would allow the program to apply for government grants.
Dixon said that this year’s winter camp would not have been possible without the ongoing support of Southeastern Middle School, Dance Unveiled and Chan LaRue Academy.