*L.A. area kids were busying around on bleachers crowded next to each other waiting. Suddenly the noise in the gymnasium swelled from curious whispers to a roar of wild screams — as Chris Paul strolled in.
Notably, before the surprise, there were curious events. It was the first day of after school programs August 15 at the Roy W. Roberts ll Watts/Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club.
And it was obvious to the group of 6-18-year-olds that something different was going on, but they didn’t know exactly what.
The gymnasium sprawled with camera crews, community leaders; including a uniformed Sheriff’s deputy; all un unusual happenings. [Scroll down to watch videos & see photos below]
“I had no idea who was going to be here and I heard somebody far away saying Chris – so I just automatically thought it was going to be him. It was fun… you know, I never had this kind of experience before,” 15-year-old Elijah Conorqie said.
Within a short time the kids would learn that they could not only play in basketball drills with L.A. Clippers, NBA star Chris Paul but they could also have a chance to participate in drill sessions with LPGA player, Alison Lee and PGA Tour, professional golfer Gary Woodland.
For one thing: “That’s what they need. They need caring adults who can give them examples of what they can become…We’re really excited to have this opportunity,” said President and CEO, Boys & Girls Club, Calvin Lyons.
But perhaps more importantly, the Watts/Willowbrook kids would enjoy updated technology, including Lenovo tablets and notebooks to use for homework and after school activities through out the school year.
So, inner city youth -for the first time- would have access to a state of the art golf simulator and ‘The First Tee’ mentors to help them learn the game, according to CDW Director Ben Weiss.
Moving along, when asked how much fun he was having, a third grade boys and girls club student said: “It’s a nice sport –kind of boring–but you really have to focus,” the student said. But of the NBA star’s surprise visit, he said: “Amazing.”
Too, of the question about playing golf and of the golf simulator another kid told EURweb: “I don’t know one thing about golf,” the 10th grader, Conorqie said. “but I’ll try everything.”
According to Paul, ‘Golf is a tough sport to get around.’ He cited difficulties for inner city youth to participate including the expensiveness, the time it takes to learn and play and also the games in-accessibility to urban kids.
“A lot of times kids are only going to get into what’s put in front of them and I know for me… golf was never an opportunity,” said Paul.
“I guarantee you there are kids here who have never seen golf and never touched a golf club,” said the Clippers star – who mentioned that Golf was his second job.
“But all it takes is one good swing,” he said. “and they are hooked… Just because [they] grow up on this side of town shouldn’t mean [they] don’t have the same opportunities as kids on the other side of town,” he also said.
Invited guest, 14-year-old Skyler Graham recalled a moment when she was six years old:
“I was on the putty ground [with The First Tee] and I sunk in a 65 ft putt and Alison Lee goes: ‘You did it.,’ I was so excited and that was the moment I definitely remember … seeing myself like someone on a high level,” Graham said.
After all, Lyons told EURweb “this is big.” He said: I surely can imagine a day when one of these kids becomes a golf pro. I’ve seen it in every aspect of what we’ve done. Golf has been a missing element in the clubs. So I’m thrilled with Golfzon because it gives a chance to open another avenue for kids to have a successful journey.”
“It takes a team to make sure young people have great futures,” Lyons said. He thanked the sponsors and Boys & Girls Club staff member for organizing the event. “I’m keeping my emotions in check and holding back tears,” he said.
For good measure, and on behalf of the California State Assembly and Assemblyman Mike Gibson, associate Michelle Chambers thanked the upgrade team.
Next, Chambers issued the Chris Paul Family Foundation, CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids; a leading multi brand technology company and Tommy Lim, senior vice president at Golfzon commendations for their makeover donations.
In the end, it turned out – a happy first day for the kids – full of surprises and new access to development tools. Lyons said: “on a scale of 1 to 10 the makeover and unveiling was a 15.”
The State Assembly representative also thanked Woodland, Lee, Paul and Weiss for their leadership roles. Finally, she thanked Lyons and wished the girls and boys good luck in their 2016 school year.
Watch as Chris Paul talks to L.A kids about respect in a huddle during basketball drills
Chris Paul & golf pros help shock kids – Plus, CEO Calvin Lyons gets all choked up – Watch snippets from the days ‘Big’ tech makeover event
Chris Paul Family Foundation, Golfzon & CDW’s Tech Fore! Kids makeover – Photo Gallery:
Story and photos by Billie Jordan