Fielkow was joined by a cast of former pro basketball stars such as Michael Ray Richardson (NBA), Otis Birdsong (NBA), Sam Silbert (ABA) and Marques Haynes (Harlem Globetrotters). Each of them played long before all of the campers were born, but that didn’t stop them from finding a way to empathize with the campers.
“When I sit and look at this, it’s unbelievable,” said Richardson, who now lives in Lawton. “To go to bed one night with everything in place, and the next day everything is gone. It has to be devastating. It’s really, really tough because these kids here have no idea what happened. What do you tell a kid? If we can just put a smile on their face, I think that’s big.”
One former player on hand who almost all of the the kids’ parents knew was Danny Manning, who is now the men’s basketball coach at University of Tulsa. The former Kansas University and NBA standout brought members of his team down to work with the campers.
Even though Manning has only been in Oklahoma for a year, he considered himself part of the community.
“This is our community, our state,” Manning said. “It’s a way for us to come back out and share some of that love. The goal is to bring them in the gym, put a smile on their face and have them just concentrate on having fun. Once they do leave this clinic, hopefully the memories of the experience will last for them. But the reality is that some of them will have to deal with the continued damage.”
Manning is a former spokesman for the National Police Athletic League. So when PAL president Christopher Hill called him asking if he could be part of the clinic, it was an easy decision for Manning.