Letter: Walking the walk — a quest for used basketballs for Craggy inmates

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Many institutions and organizations like to tout their commitments to social responsibility and community engagement. Fewer, it seems, actually walk the walk.

I do volunteer work at Craggy Correctional Center with the Community Resource Council. The group’s objective is to provide a little bit of hope, education, entertainment and opportunity to 400-plus inmates whose lives, as you can imagine, are quite bleak most days. We try to provide ongoing acknowledgement and support to the administration and staff as well, people who also spend much of their time inside the same tall chain-link fence.

One of the few outlets for the men to get exercise and blow off steam is half-court basketball. Man, those basketballs sure don’t last long, though. The state seems unable to keep them supplied: Craggy has an open request dating back to last December.

So I wrote not too long ago to a number of coaches, assistant coaches and facilities folks at UNCA requesting any used Bulldog basketballs they could spare that were no longer fit for practice or games. The only person who even responded was the women’s head coach, but the basketballs would have been too small for the inmates. I didn’t even know they came in different sizes, but at least she got back to me right away.

I also wrote to the director of corporate social responsibility for the Charlotte Hornets and their owner, Michael Jordan. After a couple of weeks, I followed up only to be told by the director that there was nothing she could do. Imagine that, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t manage to come up with a couple of beat-up basketballs. Maybe they were just too busy focusing on their so-so season. Hey, No. 23, you never responded: If you’re reading this now, we could still use a few.

A prep school athletic director in Philly did send us over a dozen. His daughter deflated them and packed them into a box and overnighted it. He wouldn’t even accept reimbursement for the shipping charges. Some people do indeed walk the walk. Thanks, Coach!

So, the next time you read about an organization’s social responsibility philosophy, dig a little deeper. Maybe it’s just talk. Maybe not. And if you happen to have a few basketballs you’d care to donate, let me know. The men behind the wire in Woodfin would sure appreciate them.

— Michael Breck

Editor’s note: Breck can be reached via michaelbreckgal@gmail.com. Xpress contacted the Hornets and UNC Asheville with a summary of the letter writer’s complaint. We did not hear back from the Hornets, but we did receive a response from UNC Asheville Director of Athletics Janet Cone, who wrote: “Organizations approach UNC Asheville Athletics daily for donations or support, and we’re happy to help whenever possible, whether volunteering at elementary schools, hosting sports clinics for Special Olympics athletes, or participating in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser and any number of other local initiatives. UNC Asheville Athletics is dedicated to cooperating with partners across the greater Asheville area as we work together to enrich and support our community.

“UNC Asheville is committed to strengthening our impact on the community through civic and cultural engagement, sustained partnerships and by providing more educational opportunities in Asheville and the surrounding communities. In 2017-18 alone, UNC Asheville employees, students and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) members contributed over 100,000 volunteer hours to the community, 3,200 of which were contributed by the university’s athletics department, representing significant civic engagement.”


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6 thoughts on “Letter: Walking the walk — a quest for used basketballs for Craggy inmates

  1. Johnny to the A

    “The only person who even responded was the women’s head coach, but the basketballs would have been too small for the inmates.”

    So inmates have a say in the matter?

    Find a better cause Michael.

    • BRO

      As in the ball is made to be smaller to fit women’s hands, and therefore would be too small for a man. And hate to tell you this, but inmates are still citizens and get listened to, and they’ll be out in your community soon – so you benefit from their learning to manage their stress through activity.

    • B.E. Vickroy

      To Johnny – “find a better cause”? Don’t mince words, just say you don’t give a rip.
      To Michael – As one with a loved-one inside a prison, I’m sure your efforts are appreciated and will bear fruit. May I suggest that you go in person to speak to local churches, social organizations, etc? If possible bring pictures of the men playing ball. Describe the empty hours in their days. These days people are so flooded with COMMUNICATIONS, and an in-person request will be a novelty and be harder to ignore or turn down. Don’t be shy or worried about your speaking skills …that will not be a turn off to those who are often surfeit with slick, polished requests. God bless you in your efforts. My friend is in AZ private prison and it is HELL.

      • Mike

        Thanks so much for your ideas. So far I’ve gotten 3 b-balls donated from folks who read the letter.

  2. Jon King

    Try contacting a basketball manufacturer – Rawlings, etc. Most manufacturing operations generate product that isn’t good enough to be retailed, but would be plenty good enough for the inmates. They can probably write the seconds off of taxes.

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