Wilkins’ fifth annual ‘Fun Day’ a scorching success|Kids, adults enjoy festivities despite heat

Published 3:15 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sports Editor

A blazing sun and scorching temperatures couldn’t keep kids and adults away.
The field across from the Boys &Girls Club was abuzz with activity during Damien Wilkins’ fifth annual “Fun Day.” The Washington native and five-year NBA veteran made sure everybody had a good time at Saturday’s event.
He gave away prizes, including bikes, to some lucky kids.
“It’s always bigger and better,” Wilkins said. “Anytime I can come home and see all the people that I grew up with, and see the enthusiasm that the community has for this, it does a good job of keeping me grounded.
“This city has been on my shoulders ever since I left, and that’s where they remain. When I first started, I thought I was only going to do this one or two times. Now we’re at five years running, and it’s these people in the community that make it happen.”
Wilkins was especially moved to see all the kids running around on Saturday.
“This means a lot,” Wilkins said. “I was in their shoes not too long ago. They’ve seen what I’ve been able to do with my life and my career, and I just try to encourage them that they, too, can be all that they can be.
“My message remains the same — stay encouraged and finish school because education is important.”
Brandon Tripp, a standout basketball player at Washington High School, was impressed that Wilkins continues to return home and give back to the community.
“It’s really good,” Tripp said. “You’ve got somebody that made it all the way (to the NBA) and for him to come back to his hometown and help us out is big.
“It was really fun and really cool. It just shows that anybody can make it.”
While Wilkins was able to stroll around the field to greet his many fans, Shena Locke, the event organizer, was busy making sure things ran smoothly. She even helped the younger kids participate in the always-fun musical chairs.
“It means a lot,” Locke said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it.
“Damien really gets excited about coming home every year. We’re grateful for everybody that comes out; the kids, the teachers, the school systems, everybody. It means a lot to me.”
Locke was pleased so many people made their way to the “Fun Day” despite the hot temperatures.
“I am amazed that people are still here, and still want to be here,” Locke said with a big smile. “What is it? Like 110 degrees out here? I really can’t believe it.”
Even though Locke has been doing this for a few years now, she said planning each “Fun Day” doesn’t get any easier.
“It gets harder because everything keeps building up,” Locke said. “The number of people keep multiplying and we always want to make sure we take care of everybody, that nobody goes home empty-handed.
“You really want to make sure that everybody has a good time, from the little kids to the adults. You have to get more creative every year.”
Wilkins wasn’t the only one giving things away. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard/forward was moved when he was presented a plaque for all the good he’s done for the community.
After a lengthy hug with the presenter, Wilkins composed himself and thanked the community for its generosity and support.
With Saturday’s event not even completed, Wilkins was already looking to the future.
“I love you,” Wilkins said. “Five years down, and many more to go.”