Philadelphia councilmember hosts free basketball camp to provide opportunities for inner-city youth

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas says outlets like this camp are crucial for youth in a city grappling with gun violence.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Councilmember Isaiah Thomas hosted his 9th annual Thomas & Woods Basketball Camp at Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School in Kensington.

On Tuesday, kids were warmed up and ready to play some pickup games of basketball.

"I like to do the five-on-five games. I like to get better on my game every year I come around," said 14-year-old Khalil Brown.

After so much time at home this past school year, camp feels especially sweet for these youth participants.

"It builds your confidence up because if you don't talk to people regularly and then you're in quarantine, you don't talk to people all year except for your parents," said 12-year-old Christopher Thorn. "That's your comfortable place. You need to get out of it to be honest."

Thomas is the co-founder of the Thomas & Woods foundation, which provides opportunities and programs for Philadelphia youth, specifically kids who may not have access.

Sports are a big focus.

RELATED: Free Philadelphia basketball camp aims to inspire youth on and off the court

"We're a basketball city. So a lot of time, us coaches and mentors use basketball as the carrot to try to put ourselves in a position to attract the young people so we can teach them the life lessons that we need to teach them," Thomas explained from the sideline.

Thomas adds outlets like this camp are crucial for youth in a city grappling with a gun violence crisis.

"We started the program just to try to fill a gap, and what started as something just to fill the gap has multiplied into something that serves hundreds of children every summer," added Thomas.

ALSO RELATED: Philly man honors brother killed by gun violence by creating youth camp

Zaki Alston, 16, is a counselor now but remembers how much he used to love coming as a camper.

"It was a safe space, and it was a way to get better," Alston said.

One happy parent is City Commissioner Omar Sabir, who says his sons love the camp.

"During this pandemic, being open, out, interacting, fresh air, learn the skills, mentoring skills, it's priceless," said Sabir.

Next week there is another week of camp being held at Finley Recreation Center with spaces available.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.