This week many local Native youth will participate in a basketball and volleyball Rise Above clinic in the Spokane Valley.
The clinic, interspersed with wellness programs and appearances from basketball and volleyball heavy weights, was inspired by founder Jaci McCormack’s experiences with sports, which she calls her saving grace.
McCormack is an Illinois State University women’s basketball legend and grew up on the Nez Perce reservation. She said basketball is where she always goes to find peace.
“When things got stressful on my life, I just went and played basketball. When I was having a rough day, I just went and shot hoops.”
She said the organization she co-founded, Rise Above, takes a lot from those experience to connect Native Children with the education and wellness services they need to be successful.
“We want to meet them where they’re at. We don’t want to force them to come listen to a lunchtime lecture from 12-1 and get 10 kids. We want to say, hey we’re holding a basketball clinic from 8-4, in your community, in your community center gym. Get a free t-shirt, get a free lunch. We get 100 kids every single time.”
She said those clinics, which work with tribes across the region, connect children with suicide prevention resources and programs, healthy relationship and drug prevention workshops to build resilience to the issues that are prevalent in Native communities.
This clinic will also include inspiring athletes including both former Olympians, NBA and WNBA players.
In addition to this clinic and others scheduled with tribal communities, McCormack said she is working with the Kalispel tribe to open a permanent rise above center in the area.
The clinic for Native American youth is scheduled Monday from Noon to 3 p.m. at the HUB Sports Center in Spokane Valley.