Basketball: Denny Kessel, fellow legends team up on local camp to benefit Ronald McDonald House

Basketball: Denny Kessel, fellow legends team up on local camp to benefit Ronald McDonald House

BY KEN KEENAN July 17, 2012 5:16PM

Updated:  July 23, 2012 8:53PM

LIBERTYVILLE — With a lineup of heavy hitters from the world of basketball on board, including former Mundelein High School boys head coach Denny Kessel, nationally known Sports America Inc. is bringing a pair of specialized camps to the greater Chicago area.

Initiated in 2010 by McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Games founder Bob Goeghan, Sports America Basketball Camps will hold its Boys Day Camp at Aurora West High School, from July 30 to Aug. 3, followed by a Boys and Girls Day Camp at Libertyville Sports Complex, set for Aug. 6-10. The camps are designed for youngsters entering fourth to ninth grade in 2012-13.

Proceeds from the camps will benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.

In selecting Kessel — along with Illinois Basketball Academy founder and director Craig Veselik, legendary St. Joseph High School head coach Gene Pingatore — the Washington D.C.-based Goeghan, who also founded Sports America Inc., wanted to ensure that campers receive the highest quality of instruction available.

“We’re trying to build a camp different from other camps, and those guys are legends in the Chicago area, so I’m trying to utilize their skills and vision,” Goeghan said. “The concept is, if we could take these great mentors, not only could we help kids become better in basketball, but also how to become a better teammate … a better person — and most important, to teach kids to give back to the community. So I wanted communicators who represent the game in the right way. Plus, these coaches really like giving back to the community, and Ronald McDonald House Charities really help families with the money that’s raised.”

Kessel, who compiled 388 career victories as a high school coach and entered the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005, is more than glad to lend a hand.

“I’m flattered to be included in this group,” said Kessel, who also runs Kessel Heat, a multi-faceted outfit offering basketball instruction, team competition and the like. “Ronald McDonald Charities is something close to me, and it’s a good cause, raising money for kids — some with terminal illnesses. And this particular camp is going to allow for lectures, classrooms … the importance of values and sportsmanship, competition and fair play. All of that stuff is important.”

Added Goeghan: “Coach Kessel seemed really enthusiastic, and he’s already running a solid camp. He’s a basketball nut with a passion for the game. I’m just a behind-the-scenes guy, but I’m blessed with the fact that these coaches share the same vision: teaching the values of the game, sportsmanship and the life lessons that go with it.”

A typical day at one of the camps (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will feature a full slate of activities, including contests, 3-on-3 games and a teaching station. Each week-long camp will conclude with an awards ceremony, open to family members and friends. The total fee of $275 per camper includes a T-shirt, various Sports America giveaways, and accident/injury insurance over and above a camper’s family insurance policy.

“Most of the kids at these camps are not All-America type players, but we’ll provide exposure to them that they wouldn’t normally get,” Veselik said. “And the coaches we’ll have represent a some of the best in the area. For example, I’ve known coach Kessel for 10 years, and he’s a guy who fits the profile of a coach with the Ronald McDonald House: character, integrity and principles. Add in the Bob Goeghan factor, and it’s a special thing.”

Goeghan’s ultimate goal is to put the Sports America Camps on the national radar, as he did with the McDonald’s All-American Games, beginning in 1978.

“We’re trying to build a camp with a little twist of giving back to the community, and that’s hitting home with a lot of these parents,” he said. “We’ll see how these camps work, build upon the model, and have one in every state — hopefully in five years. There’s more to it than dunking a ball or being the best player. We’re trying to use basketball as a vehicle to build a foundation, as far as being leaders in their communities — and not followers.”

Registration for the Sports America Camp at Libertyville Sports Complex, located at 1950 North Highway 45, runs through July 23. For more information, call (708) 878-1254 or contact

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