This episode spotlights a legacy built on personal loss as a foundation toward building community.
In March of 1999, 11-year old Julius De Loatche was killed in a tragic house fire. His family, led by Julius’ father, the Reverend James De Loatche, created the Julius De Loatche Summer Basketball Camp rather than turning inward with grief.
2019 marks the 20th consecutive year that approximately 50 boys and girls, in grades 5 through 8, meet across 6 to 8 weekends for basketball instruction and play, as well as a camp picnic and awards banquet. Participants receive a backpack fully equipped with printed camp t-shirt, medallion, certificate, and a water bottle. The De Loatche’s non-profit organization provides all of the camp activities and benefits without cost to the participants.
The basketball camp is neither the Reverend’s first nor only recovery effort. James De Loatche is a Retired Army Captain, received two Purple Hearts, and three Bronze Stars as the survivor of brutal warfare across two tours of duty in Vietnam. James’ war wounds exacted a high price in pain and thirteen surgical procedures. Yet, James De Loatche, the senior assistant pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Peoria, is deeply involved in Veterans’ activities including serving as a VFW commander in efforts to provide emotional and spiritual support to military survivors and retirees.
James, his wife Relmer, and daughter Adrienne, lead the summer basketball camp in honor of Julius; using the memory of his love for basketball as an inspiration for Peoria youth.
A number of Central Illinois basketball camps feature well-known athletes, celebrities, and sponsors. But the Julius De Loatche Basketball Camp has the most honorable roots and heroic founder of them all.
Athletic activities sometimes lead to injuries. In this case, sport promotes the healing of body and spirit.
Until next time, for Stories Beyond the Scores, I’m Chris Reynolds.