- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Facebook messages came pouring in:
“It is not easy having daddy deployed for a year ... but this is an awesome way for her to be a kid and have fun.’’
“As a continuously deploying father, I’ve missed many opportunities to teach the basic skills to my kids. However, clinics such as yours really help our kids learn during such critical times.’’
And perhaps most succinctly: “Thank you for bringing joy and happiness to these children.’’
That simple goal was exactly what Sean Farnham, the ESPN analyst and former UCLA player, sought to accomplish when he dreamed up Hoops from Home, a nonprofit organization geared toward children of active military.
To use a language military folks can appreciate: mission accomplished.
On Saturday at Camp Pendleton in California, Farnham hosted his first Hoops from Home clinic, welcoming more than 100 children to the all-day event. Tutored by players like Orlando Johnson, John Jenkins, Ryan Hollins and Brent Barry, along with Lakers coach Mike Brown, the kids learned some basic basketball skills, collected autographs and even watched Jenkins and Barry square up against some wounded warriors in a wheelchair basketball shooting contest.
Basketball really is the conduit here, a tool used to help relieve the stresses that kids are feeling while their parents are overseas on active duty. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, American troops have deployed more than 3 million times, with most returning for multiple tours.
And that has left a generation of kids dealing with unparalleled stresses.
Farnham knows one day isn’t going to change everything -- but one day can help.
“The kids ... the smiles ... the reactions have been amazing,’’ Farnham said via email after the clinic.
Farnham hopes Camp Pendleton is only the first of many stops Hoops from Home will make. He has designs on spreading the program across the country and, ideally, worldwide.
If the Facebook comments are any indication, he’ll be greeted with open arms.
“Thanks to all players and coaches who participated in this event,’’ one parent wrote. “God bless you all!”
Editor's note: To read Dana O'Neil's article on the origins of Hoops from Home, click here.