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The more I allow myself to connect with the Las Vegas community, the more proud I am to say I live here. Once upon a time, I was proud of the fact that this was an international party city. Yes, I was around 21 at the time. Even as a youngster, I remember my parents telling me that Las Vegas was, “special”. It took 36 years and a lot of experience to recognize that my home town is way more than that. It is full of impressive organizations, foundations and people in our community that have worked so hard to establish as much as they could while they were here. Recently, I learned that Jerome Williams, also known as Junk Yard Dog, is one of them.

Jerome is not even from Las Vegas. I know, you may think, “no one is”, but that’s not true. I am. My husband is. Many of our family and friends are. We watched this city get built up and taken advantage of when times were good, and get also get left behind like a worn torn love child when times were bad. There didn’t seem to be any loyalty left in this town. The more I started blogging and meeting people in our community, the more I realized…the good ones stayed. I have met so many amazing community leaders in the last year during my blogging experience, and Jerome Williams tops that list.

You have all heard me talk about the Summit Ridge Day Camp. I have officially enrolled my two children. They are stoked! Then Camp Director, Lisa Beinstock, asked me to interview the man behind the making of the Sports Camp at Summer Ridge. To be quiet honest, I’m not much of a sports fanatic. When my husband comes home and reels off the names of the professional sports players he works with, I usually just nod and act interested, even though I have no idea who they are. Of course, when you interview someone, you need to know about them before you ask stupid questions. So, I googled Jerome Williams.

Though I was impressed by what I found, I can tell you, nothing impressed me more than speaking with Jerome on the phone for 45 minutes. I seriously couldn’t thank him enough for taking his time, his talent, his own experiences and caring enough to want to share them with the youth in the Las Vegas community. What an asset to our community.

Jerome hailed from Georgetown University, playing college ball there, then moving on to some well known teams like the Toronto Rafters, New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons where he got his nickname, “JYD” or Junk Yard Dog. He never gave a thought to Las Vegas until his wife suggested that they consider buying a second home when the real estate market was actually good (remember those days?). As he states, “I loved my wife. I wanted to make her happy. I said, ‘OK.’,” so, they bought a home in the Anthem/ Seven Hills area. Shortly after, his parents paid a visit to the Silver State. They decided they were going to retire in good ole Las Vegas. He could not believe it, and when his friends asked why, he wasn’t too sure himself, except that he knew he wanted to be around his family. He and his wife, Nikkollette, decided to make the move themselves and became full time residents.

RSMLV: Jerome, why do you feel sports, especially team sports, is important for children to participate in?

JYD: Team sports are the “Game of Life”. Sports play a critical role, they are a serious learning tool. In life, you are always faced with wins and losses. Everyday is a learning experience. You need to develop skills, be coachable, learn the rules of the game. Sports parallels life in a lot of aspects. {Additionally} it is equally important in education. For some children, it’s what keeps them in school. Sports plays a critical role in encouraging children to finish their education. If they do not excel easily in school, for some, it’s the idea that knowing they have something to look forward to, like sports, that gets them through their day. Sports keeps them engaged. {In the end} it’s not just the physical workout our kids are getting with sports, it’s the mental workout, too.

RSMLV: Tell me about Care2Play Sports. What’s it all about and how does it work into the Sports Camp at Summit Ridge Day Camp?

JYD: The Sports Camp at Summit Ridge Day Camp this year will be ran by Care2Play sports, and my brother, Joshua, is the General Manager and will act as the Camp Director. The idea is that the Sports Campers will participate in a multitude of sports, not just basketball. Each day they will play two new activities, such as kick ball and soccer, or soccer and baseball. They will swim everyday, and at the end of the session, there will be a “Bootcamp” where the kids will work together on fun challenges like relay races, teaching them to have fun without the competition. Participating in the Care2Play is that opportunity to integrate life skills with sports by identifying how each child needs different forms of discipline. We have a daily routine, there are expectations of the campers…they have to learn how to follow directions and be attentive, while at the same time getting the most out of their time at camp. Sports teaches discipline through a repetitive learning process. If they forget the instructions, they have to do 5 push-ups; they learn to be accountable to themselves and to their teammates.

RSMLV: OK! Sign my kids up! How do parents keep their kids involved in this program after summer camp is over? Does Care2Play sports offer programs outside of the Summit Ridge Day Camp when school is back in session?

JYD: There will be an opportunity for kids to participate in an after-school program at Henderson International once school starts up again. They do not have to be students at Henderson International to participate. Other ways that kids can be involved with the Care2Play program is through our magazine, Care2Play Sports Magazine. We feature 12-18 year olds who excel in sports, education and community support in the magazine, giving local kids an opportunity to be a celeb, and for the parents to show them off a bit. There is also the Coast2Coast league that kids can participate in as well. {For more information on the Coast2Coast Magazine and the Coast2Coast league, visit their website www.Care2PlaySports.com or their Facebook page Care2Play.}

RSMLV: Jerome, in your opinion, what is the best way for our community to support our youth in sports? 

JYD: Mentoring is one. But, really, the mentoring needs to come in the form of stronger support from the parents. When parents understand the importance of of sports, both professionally and socially, they are able to help their kids learn how to deal with obstacles, how to lose, and how to be a good winner as well. All of this encourages everyone to work together to create a positive community.

RSMLV: Name 3 things you are most proud of in your career and your philanthropy.

JYD: First- traveling the globe. I worked with kids all over the world, China, South America, Israel, Europe…kids of all nationalities…working with them in sports and goodwill. It was really cool being able to step outside the U.S. and see how they do things, and to get a global perspective. Second- Embracing every community I have lived in. Whether it was Georgetown, Detroit, Chicago, New York, or Las Vegas, we established roots, raised healthy kids, and focused on their education. {Jerome also worked in each community to support sports and education.} Third- Family. I am so proud my family is apart of my philanthropies. You need support from your family to be able to support your community. My kids participate in my Toy Drive and Annual Car Rally for kids’ education. Without the support of my family, I would have never been successful.

Well said, Jerome, well said.

There is still time to sign up for the Sports Camp with Care2Play Sports taking place at Summit Ridge Day Camp. Visit the Summit Ridge Day Camp website to get more information on the Sports Camp and how to register.