PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) -- Operation UNITE put on a Shoot Hoops, Not Drugs basketball camp coordinated by former Kentucky Wildcat Jeff Sheppard at Johnson County Middle School Monday night.
"If I make a mistake, I make a mistake. But I'm not going to worry about it,” Sheppard said during his pre-camp speech. “I'm going to get right back up and I'm going to go for it again.”
Shoot Hoops Not Drugs is a camp in its 9th year, teaching kids to stay involved and win at life.
Elisha Justice (20-27): "I have seen people do sports, go the wrong way and throw everything away,” Elisha Justice, who was volunteering at the camp, said. “And I have seen people stay on the right track and have a lot of success.”
This was just one of five camps. There are two more Shoot Hoops, Not Drugs camps left – one in Boyd County on Tuesday and one in Harlan County on Thursday.
"I think that keeping kids in youth sports and teaching them the right ways to do things and keeping them involved all throughout high school -- even in college, keeping them involved in things -- will keep them out of the stuff we don't want them to do," volunteer Tyler Whitaker said.
Through Operation UNITE, Jeff Shepard is able to put on five to six basketball camps per year. But basketball is not the message; basketball is the tool to educate.
“At the end of the day, we really just want them to pursue life and not pursue the lifestyle of drugs and drug abuse and we are fighting against it,” Sheppard said.
Shepherd related the message with a common example in the basketball hungry bluegrass.
“It’s something we can just like we rally around the Kentucky Wildcats and we celebrate championships, the same principle is in place in these communities: when there are events that Operation Unite is doing, be apart,” Sheppard said. “When we come together and we are able to educate a group of parents and a group of children and community, then we win. And it takes a bunch of wins to win a championship and that's what we are trying to do.”