For 25 years, Heroes Camp in Mishawaka has had a mission to get as many boys as possible, off the streets and onto a basketball court. Today, it's helped nearly 75,000 do just that. Last year though, severe thunderstorms ripped the roof off their gym, and it looked like the Heroes Camp mission was over. But with the right mindset, they're coming back stronger... than ever.
July 1st, 2014. Nearly 11 twisters touched down in Michiana. Surveillance video from inside the Heroes Camp gym shows an actual vortex went through the building. Co-Founder Pat Magley says, "The door over there was on the second court, and all these bleachers were on the first court. Everything was destroyed. And I'm like... no. When you lose a loved one, or you birth something, and it looks like it's destroyed... you're numb." Magley says they suffered nearly $800,000 in damage, and couldn't continue at the gym with the condition that it was in. Co-Founder BJ Magley says, "I was just heartbroken. I just kept thinking this is a house for the fatherless. This is their home."
Young men like Cam'ron Turner have made the Camp part of their everyday life, with a free meal, haircuts, life lessons, and of course... basketball. Turner says he saw the damages from last year's storm and says, "It shouldn't happen to this place."
For the past year, Heroes Camp was on life support, using other facilities to keep the nearly 100 young men a day who come in, off the streets. Camper Jordan Tolbert, now a senior in high school, whose attended the camp since he was in middle school says, "Everyday I leave here and feel like I can change the world." BJ Magley says on a normal day, nearly 100 campers would come after school. When they had to operate out of other faciliites like The South Bend Career Academy and Apostolic Temple Village, they could only cover about half. She says, "All kinds of things have happened you know, shootings, I don't know, maybe there's been an increase in crime. The numbers that we normally run is so great that I have to wonder where were those kids? Who was caring for them?"
But with the help of the community, on Saturday at 10 AM, Heroes Camp is reopening their renovated facility, and adding to their family.
On the court... he was Number 22. Jaraan Cornell says, "I went to South Bend Clay. We won a State Championship in '94. Graduated in '96. Then went down to Purdue University. Graduated." In fact, Cornell still holds the Boilermaker record for the most 3-point field goals made in a career. He says its all because he's been a part of Heroes Camp... since he was 13 saying, "It gave me something more to think about than just basketball. It got me thinking about what direction I wanted to go in life."
Now, Cornell will be the camps new program director. He says he wants to return the favor and inspire future stars... like Jimmy Beane, who says, "I want to come here and then go to the University of Kentucky for a year, then go to the NBA, and then give back to Heroes Camp."
Heroes Camp is one of the largest ministries for youth in the area. Now in a facility housing three basketball courts, a kitchen, locker rooms, a studio, and yes even a barbershop Heroes Camp helps young men embrace fathering and their Heavenly father through sports. For more information, visit heroescamp.com