The sound of feet running up and down the basketball court inside the Touro University Nevada gymnasium almost matched the sound of laughter coming from the children running.
During the annual Sharon Sigesmund Pierce and Stephen Pierce Touro Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD) basketball clinic, nearly 100 children between the ages of 4 and 12 RSVP’d for the event. Children enjoyed working on their basketball skills and interacting with each other during each of the two sessions.
“The basketball clinic is a wonderful way for children with autism and other developmental disabilities to develop their social skills and interact with others,” said Lisa Kunz, Director of the CADD. “It’s so wonderful seeing the excitement on their faces when they come to the basketball clinic. It’s truly something special.”
Led by former NBA first-round draft pick Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams, the annual basketball clinic allowed children to interact and socialize with one another while having fun playing basketball.
Gwendolyn Mentzel brought her two children, 12-year-old Legend and 5-year-old Legacy, to experience the basketball clinic for the first time. She heard about the basketball clinic through other parents in the autism community. Mentzel was thrilled that Legend, who has autism, could play basketball in a family-friendly environment with others.
“It’s very comforting to be with a group of people who understand you and your children,” she said. “I had just recently heard about the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, but being here at the basketball clinic has me wanting to learn more.”
Williams, whose “JYD Project” non-profit organization helps promote youth development, has assisted with the CADD basketball clinic since 2014.
“It’s always great coming to Touro because these kids have such a great time playing basketball, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “All kids should be able to play sports in a fun and caring environment.”