Summer Highlight: Jimmy Lee Soccer Camp’s Happy Camper, Asa!

Returning to more normal summer activities after more than a year of social isolation was not always easy. That is where having a staff of coaches trained in positive developmental relationships helped young people like Asa reengage in play and physical activity.

It’s October as the leaves begin to fall. We’ve finally made it to the end of summer and that means that our summer camps have come to an end for the year.

Looking back on this unique summer, there have been many remarkable moments for campers, coaches, parents, staff, and volunteers alike. The uncertainty of the pandemic and its aftereffects have definitely morphed our day-to-days, something Sanneh definitely had to adapt to when it came to youth group activities and summer camps.

Camper Asa (left), Coach Samuel (right)

One of our many remarkable moments happened in our St. Paul  camp in late July. Youth Soccer Coach Samuel Bangura was leading our Jimmy Lee camp on Lexington. The camp was going well as it usually does, but Samuel noticed something different this time: there was a single camper who was off on his own. This young boy was running around as the soccer camp went on; not paying much attention to his surroundings and unable to stay focused on the lesson. Samuel also realized from their interaction that this camper, Asa, was neither saying much nor interacting with the other kids. Due to the pandemic, his mother, Aja, had signed him up to try something new, aid in socialization and ready him for Kindergarten—after a long year of children’s activities being canceled.

Asa high-fiving one of the Sanneh coaches!

The camper’s father, Solomon, believed that it would be best to take his son out of the camp, concerned that Asa was not fully aware how the soccer team worked. With this in mind, he hoped to avoid potentially frustrating or disturbing the other campers as they continued to kick soccer balls around and complete their drills. But, Samuel was determined to do something. He encouraged them to stay despite the dad’s insistence, and promised that there was so much more for Asa to do and be a part of. After a while of discussion, Samuel had finally convinced them to let Asa stay for the entirety of the camp’s session.

A bright idea had come to Samuel as he considered Asa’s and his dad’s feelings, and he decided for the rest of the camp day, he would focus his attention on Asa and keep him close to his side. As the day continued on and the other campers practiced drills, played games, and interacted with one another, Asa remained close to Samuel’s side as his coach assistant for the day.

The rest of camp ended up being a GREAT success.

Throughout the day, Asa grew more responsive and took part in most of the camp's activities; enjoying himself right alongside the rest of the campers. Watching proudly from the sidelines, Asa’s parents beamed with pride as his son played with the other children.

Asa (in the middle) having fun playing soccer with the other campers!

He expressed his deep appreciation for Samuel’s and the rest of the coaching staff’s dedication to making sure that EVERYONE at the camp felt welcomed, cared about, and included—in all of the camp activities. Asa’s parents saw how simple acts of kindness, love and inclusion could positively impact the lives of youth—in our communities, and in his son, Asa. Asa had so much fun that week, he even wrote a letter to Coach Samuel and still continues to talk to his parents about that day!

Asa and Coach Samuel practicing some drills.

This summer has been a difficult one for many families for a number of reasons. But, the work that our Sanneh Coaches and staff have put into making these few months a little brighter for our youngests is a ray of much needed summer sunshine.

We look forward to putting on more camps across the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, and wherever they may be needed in order to help kids stay active and continue to learn (even when school’s out)! Here’s to a great 2021 camp season and an anticipated cheer for our next camp season!