Tucked away in a quaint area near Decatur, Georgia lives a basketball camp that will amaze even the most knowledgeable basketball player. Former NBA basketball player Mike “The Stinger” Glenn’s Basketball Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing which is in its 36th year is second to none.
Each year kids fly in from all over the country to attend Mike’s phenomenal camp. As a former Atlanta Hawk, Milwaukee Buccaneer, Buffalo Brave and New York Knick, he knew he was fortunate. He was fortunate enough to have a doting dad who had a heart of gold for helping others. Mike’s dad was the coach at a local school for the deaf when he was growing up. Having children around who were deaf or hard of hearing was the norm for him and he saw them as no different than anyone else. As Mike began to grow older he soon realized he had opportunities that his friends would never have simply because he could hear and they couldn’t. In high school, Mike decided he would start a program for people like his friends so they could feel just like everyone else when he grew up. Little did Mike know that he’d actually be afforded the opportunity to make good on his promise to do something so noble and far reaching as his camp. When asked what the camp means Mike said “I wanted to create a program that was the model for TOTAL inclusion.” This is exactly what he’s doing with the camp that touts the tagline “Diversity through Basketball.”
The camp begins Father’s Day weekend every year in honor of Mike’s father. When I sat down to speak with Mike, I could barely pay attention to what he was talking about because I was utterly amazed at the skill of the kids he had in the camp. Everyone from boys to girls, hard of hearing, deaf and some who had fully functioning hearing who wanted to support the other kids were dribbling like the pros and signing at record speed. Over in one corner you saw drills and in another corner you saw half court games going on with some serious jump shots. Many of the coaches were former players in the camp who had grown up and wanted to give back. One coach works with the Special Olympics basketball teams and he had the kids going just as hard as anyone else would be.
Kids from far and near go to the one week camp that relies heavily on donations to Mike Glenn’s foundation in addition to parental contribution for expenses. Seeing the bus from Indiana really blew my mind knowing that these kids had such dedication to something that meant a lot to them and this was their chance to get the game right.
In addition to meeting some awesome kids, my day with Mike Glenn included meeting some other retired basketball players hanging out as one of them accepted an award. Rickey Brown a retired forward center from the Atlanta Hawks and Harry Flournoy who had an amazing run at Texas Western. One of the best photos in history of Mr. Flournoy was when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated after his team won the 1966 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship.
Seeing Harry Flournoy and Rickey Brown support Mike’s quest to provide a camp where hard of hearing and deaf kids could simply be “just kids” was a highlight of my summer. Mr. Flournoy told the kids,
“If you can see it, you can touch it. If you can touch it you can possess it……..your character is your identity.”
Mike who I think I’ll call “smiley” from this point forward beamed with joy as he saw the happiness and sparkle in each child’s eye because they could do what every kid loves to do…”play.” As a final thought Mike said,
“People need to know these kids are just like everyone else and they deserve to be included. Total inclusion matters and people donate time and money to make sure these kids know we care.”
I asked him what he sees in the future for the camp, and he replied “to see it continue and to grow.” During the remainder of the year, Mike works on various other projects and spends time working as a pre-game/half-time and post-game host with Fox Sports South on Hawks Live for the Atlanta Hawks. He also supports the Mason Dixon Tournament for the deaf in the south as much as he can. As for Mike Glenn’s personal passion, he is an avid collector of African American books and rare treasures and a family man.
My challenge to Mike for next year I’m going to take my 5 foot 2 inch self and dunk on him….well there’s always wishful thinking!