Lynx Hope To Inspire On Camp Day
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Rebekkah Brunson said each game she and her teammates take the floor, she hopes they provide some sort of inspiration for young fans who are in the stands. Their goal is to put on a good show each night and give those kids something to look up to.
But each year, the Lynx’s annual Camp Day provides an even bigger opportunity to facilitate that goal. On Wednesday, the Lynx hosted a franchise-record 16,404 fans during an 81-69 win over the Mercury—most of those in attendance being young kids hailing from area YMCA and summer clubs and, in many cases, getting a chance to see the Lynx play for the first time.
For those kids in particular, the Lynx want to give them an experience to hold onto in the years to come.
“Just to let them know you can accomplish things you want to accomplish,” Brunson said. “I’m sure at some point when we were younger, all of us dreamed about the day we could do this. And we did everything we could to ensure we could be here. I hope they take that way—whatever they want to do, whatever they want to be, if they put the work in it will happen.”
The Lynx opened up the south baseline seating where the Party Zone normally sits, and the upper deck was full of fans spilling over from the first level. What resulted was an eclectic crowd of T-shirt colors—each group wearing a different color representing their own affiliation. When the arena filled up, it looked like the largest Skittles bowl in Minnesota.
And that was just the beginning. Add in the noise, and coach Cheryl Reeve said Camp Day feels like an outer-body experience.
Win or lose, whether the Lynx are making the right play or not, the crowd cheers. When Justin Bieber blares over the speaker system, they dance and sing. When free T-shirts are thrown out, they go crazy.
When the crowd goes home, Reeve said she hopes they take away a memory that they won’t soon forget.
“Today was about making the world a better place,” Reeve said. “We talked to our players about that. We want them to embrace this day. Here we are, one of the stories we tell is Maya [Moore]—when she was 8 years old, she watched her first WNBA game. Think about all the Mayas that will be in the stands today, and the impact we’re going to have on those young girls.”
Kids ranging from kindergarten to high school packed the house, and groups in upwards of 200 apiece came together to fill Target Center with pockets of yellow, orange, blue, green and red.
“We offer weekly schedules so the kids can see what we’re doing, and when they get to do the Lynx games and Twins games, Saints, games, they get so hyped,” said Ally Pinkus of Edina’s Southdale YMCA. "They get to make posters. It’s huge for them.”
Southdale YMCA brought one of the largest groups on Wednesday as more than 200 kids wore blue in Section 121 and cheered on the Lynx. That sized group required three buses and 25 chaperones.
Kids from Edina, Richfield, Bloomington, Chanhassen and others came as part of the Southdale group. They bring signs, dance to the music and cheer for every basket.
“They’ll remember this as one of the best field trips of the summer, said Phil Peterson, another Southdale YMCA chaperone. “They love it.”
Camp Day has a high rate of returning participants because of that atmosphere, but each season there are people who experience the atmosphere for the first time. Brittany Bobleter, a chaperone with the Kids Play group out of St. Michael-Albertville, was a newcomer on Camp Day 2013.
She said she didn’t quite realize the game would be filled with all kids until a couple days ago, but it an impressive sight once she got inside the arena. The kids get excited not only because it’s a unique experience, but it’s also a chance to enjoy the atmosphere and take part in the in-arena activities.
Paula Bolme, another Kids Play chaperone from the STMA area, said she’s been here several times and said it’s an educational experience for the kids. They get more familiar with the Lynx, and young girls in these groups get an idea about the possibilities surrounding sports as well as aspirations and goals about what they can achieve if they work hard.
That’s something Peggy Carlson of Elk River’s Club Summer said is prevalent, too. These young kids might not become professional athletes, but the experience instills something within them when they take part in the activities.
“It gets them confidence,” Carlson said. “It’s enriching for them to see.”
That’s exactly what Reeve said she hopes kids take away from Camp Day, not only empowering young girls but helping young boys appreciate female athletics.
“They get to see strong, powerful, confident women playing basketball,” Reeve said. “I told them when they get to be [Lynx assistant coach] Jim [Petersen’s] age…they will see them as equals and they will expect it instead of fearing a strong, confident woman or being intimidated by it. So the evolution of society, today that’s what this game was about. Changing mindsets so when these kids become decision-makers down the road, we want to embrace that and make an impression on both boys and girls.”
That’s the hope every night the Lynx step on the court. It’s just that on Wednesday the theme was a lot easier to spot.
“On Camp Day it just means we have the chance to do that in front of a bunch of young kids who actually might want to follow our lead,” Brunson said. “We just want to go out there and put on a good shot and give them something to look up to and inspire to be.”
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