Micah Lewis, a graduate of Fort Osage High School who is now an assistant on coach Josh Wilson’s boys basketball staff, had a dream.
That dream became a reality Saturday, and the benefits could be felt for weeks, months and years to come.
Lewis wanted to offer elementary and middle school students in the Fort Osage area the chance to come to the high school and see what it was like to be an Indian.
He was hoping 50 to 75 students would sign up, as information was sent to schools in the Fort Osage School District.
A smile the size of the total number of participants appears on Lewis’ face when he talks about the camp, which featured more than 215 young campers.
“We would have been thrilled with 50 or 75 kids,” Lewis said as Wilson led campers through a dribble drill in the main gymnasium, while younger campers participated in drills the school’s auxiliary gym.
“What you see here is just about half of the campers and their parents. The other campers are in our other gym. Can you believe that? This is the first time we’ve done something like this and the last number I saw in registration was 215 – and I know some other kids came up today and signed up.
“The people in this school are my family, and I think it is so important to let young people in the school district know what a great place this is and how excited they should be about eventually going to school here.”
A handful of campers talked about their experiences, and the moment they were done, they ran back to the court to participate in another drill.
“I like defense and stuff,” 12-year-old Ryleigh Sims, a sixth grader, said as she continued to look over her shoulder at what was happening on the court. “I like this camp because I’m really learning a lot of stuff and I’m having fun.”
Another sixth grader, Ryleigh Gage, echoed those comments, adding, “I have pride when I play defense and we learned a lot about defense today. And it’s cool and fun to work with the high school coaches and players.”
Fifth grader Miles Diekmann said he learned something new at the camp.
“I didn’t know that your legs were as important as your arms, making sure you have good footwork and stuff like that,” Diekmann said. “And the players are so cool.”
Triston Turner, a lanky center who drew oohs and aahs during the pre-camp dunk contest, smiled when that remark was relayed to him.
“This is all about the kids,” Turner said, “because we were little kids once and I remember how much I looked up to the high school coaches and players. The slam dunk contest was fun – the perfect way to get them excited about camp.”
Dom Myers, an all-state football player as well as a basketball player, was having as much as the campers.
“I love this,” the diminutive Myers said, “because I’m about the same size as a lot of the campers and they say, ‘You’re short and you can be an athlete,’ and I think that inspires them. And nothing is as much fun as working with the young people.”
Kiyley Flowers, the heralded junior guard on coach Lindsay Thompson’s girls team, took some personal time to work hand in hand with the campers.
“I remember going to camps and it was so cool to work with the high school players,” Flowers said. “I want today to be as special for them as it was for me.”
While Flowers had attended youth camps, this was a first-time experience for freshman guard Macie Smith.
“I never went to any camps when I was young and this is the first camp I’ve been to, and I’m having as much fun as the kids,” Smith said. “I’m just a few years or months older than some of them, and we’re all having fun.”
While their staff and players worked directly with the campers, Wilson and Thompson just took in the overall love and joy that came from the camp.
“This is pretty cool,” Wilson said. “Seeing our kids interact with the campers makes us realize how great our kids are.”
That statement was never more telling than at the end of the camp, when a youngster was having trouble with the noise and the clapping on the court during a defensive drill.
He seemed a bit disoriented and placed his hands over his ears.
Fort Osage senior guard Miles Dunfield saw the youngster and ran over to him and gave him a hug. Dunfield then quietly escorted him off the gym floor to the bleachers, where his appreciative mother was waiting.
“Oh my gosh,” Thompson said, “when I saw that – tears! It was amazing. So many special moments happened today, and that was one of the most special. We have some great kids at Fort Osage.”