Thursday, November 19, 2009


I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with our "Stars and Stripes" Unit in Oregon this past weekend. It's always hard to get out to the road, but most of the time I find it rewarding once I get there.

Getting from Fort Collins to Prineville, Oregon was a bit of a challenge. I was in Golden, Colorado Thursday night for a game with the over-50 basketball team I play with, the Playmakers. Since I had a early Friday morning flight out of Denver International Airport and Paula had a Friday seminary class, we checked into an airport hotel from which I caught a 4:15 am shuttle bus to the airport.

My flight to Portland was scheduled to have a brief stopover in Salt Lake City, but engine problems turned that into a two and a half hour stop. The result of that was my arrival in Portland was too late to catch my connecting flight. So I had to rent a car for the three-plus hour drive to Prineville, Oregon, site of Friday's game. Route 26 takes you up by Mount Hood and it was snowing hard enough that chain laws were in effect for trucks. My Toyota Matrix rental handled it with no problem, but I found out later that our team had come the same way earlier in the day with Florida native Curtis McBride experiencing driving on the snow for the first time. When conditions got too much for Curt, he gave up the wheel and our tour director Jesse Whintly (from Michigan and experienced in snowy conditions) took over.

I'm not a coach, but I've seen enough Harlem Ambassadors games over the years and usually can serve as another pair of eyes to observe and tweak what we are doing on the floor. After watching the game in Prineville on Friday, I was able to suggest some changes on how newcomer Calvin "CJ" Jenkins was being used and see how those changes resulted in immediate improvement the next night in Bend. Before the game, we stopped at our sponsor's location (Nike Factory Store) in Bend and picked up a new pair of shoes for CJ (see photo).

What I appreciated most in the 36 hours or so that I was with Stars and Stripes is that we have good athletes, but more importantly, we have good people. The Bend game was presented for the second consecutive year by Camp Fire USA of Central Oregon . As we enjoyed our post-game meal in the home of Camp Fire board chairman Chris Dent, I looked around the long table. Each of our performers were spread out, sitting with two or three of the volunteers and staff from Camp Fire USA, interacting and fellowshipping, and being comfortable in doing so. I observed the same with our "Red, White, and Blue" unit during a visit earlier in the season.

Jenn, the executive director at Camp Fire USA summarized the feeling this way: "The team this year was so great. Everyone that has come into the office this week has been raving about how great the game was and how nice the team was. Last year the team was so tired that they didn't really interact with people at the dinner. They ate quickly and then wanted to leave. This year the team was AWESOME! It was a pleasure to have them here."

We are proud to represent organizations like Camp Fire USA and companies like Nike Factory Store. And we are especially proud of how our performers represent themselves and our team.