PEORIA, Ill. — The Julius De Loatche Summer Basketball Camp kicked off its 20th annual camp on Saturday at the Peoria Dream Center.
Each day at the camp, activities start with a prayer and a verse.
“Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” said Director of Camp Eric Cameron.
The camp first started in 1999 after the De Loatche family turned their tragedy into triumph for others.
“It’s been very therapeutic for us to do something in the weak of such a terrible tragedy,” said James De Loatche, the CEO and president.
James and his wife lost their son Julius in a house fire. Since that tragedy, over twelve hundred kids have gone to camp, for free.
“Absolutely no charge. That was one of the founding goals and principles,” said De Loatche.
The six week camp relies on volunteers and sponsors. At the end of camp, players will get a backpack filled with school supplies.
“They’re helping so many children, I mean, they’ve got to be so proud of that,” said Gail Miller, a grandmother of a camper.
This year, the camp will help about 30 kids.
“We’re just trying to keep kids outta trouble, as well as keeping them off the mean streets of Peoria,” said Cameron.
Parents and grandparents of campers say they see the camp’s impact beyond basketball.
“It’s really a positive camp for young people, you see it change them in so many different ways,” said Morri Douglas, a grandfather of campers.
In 20 years, the camp has made sure to focus its impacts on the kids and keeping them on the right track, both on and off the court.
“Even though we don’t have Julius, that we can channel this energy and our resources and our efforts to helping other kids,” said De Loatche.