Retired pro athletes review mental health

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Jun. 20—VALDOSTA — Sports organizations are partnering to bring more than 20 retired professional athletes to address mental health in the community.

A.C. Braswell, a motivational speaker with HOOPS Athletics, and Jumaine Jones, a retired NBA player with Beyond The Hardwood, partner to bring several sports and mental health events to catapult real and needed conversations with youth and adults about mental wellness.

Braswell said, "We are using the court and the field to tackle real conversations. As I have said before, many of the 'real life' conversations happen while we are playing sports."

The organizations will host a mental health symposium 6 p.m. Friday, June 24, at the Performing Arts Center on Barack Obama Boulevard.

The panel will include retired NBA players Lamar Odom, Milt Palacio and Jones; retired NFL player Anthony Smith; Valdosta State University football coach Tremaine Jackson; Valdosta High School football coach Shelton Felton; A Work in Progress, Dr. Demetria Hill Cannady; Michelle Girtman, The Haven executive director.

Saturday, June 25, they will host a basketball and football camp simultaneously.

"We are thankful to Valdosta City Schools and South Georgia Medical Center for sponsoring 50 children to attend either camp," Braswell said. "A special thank you to Dr. Todd Cason and VCS for allowing us to use their facilities and supporting our organizations efforts."

Football camp will be hosted at Bazemore Hyder Stadium featuring former NFL players while the basketball camp will be hosted at the new Valdosta High School gym featuring NBA players.

Braswell said players will be conducting camp and speaking to youth about mental health.

The weekend will conclude with a celebrity versus Winnersville alumni basketball game 7 p.m. Saturday at the new VHS gym.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at beyondthehardwood.net. Tickets can also be purchased at the door, organizers said.

Tickets sales will fund upcoming events for HOOPS and Beyond the Hardwood, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Greater Valdosta United Way.

Sponsors for the weekend are Greater Valdosta United Way, Langdale Industries, Kinderlou, Valdosta City Schools, Georgia Power, South Georgia Medical Center, Pepsi and Wild Adventures Theme Park.

"HOOPS Athletics promotes, educates and brings awareness to young and upcoming student athletes on maintaining mental wellness, financial stability and coping with real life issues," according to the organization.

Jumaine Jones is a 16-year professional basketball veteran, NBA Hall of Famer, gold medalist, author, philanthropist, mental health advocate and motivational speaker who was born in Cocoa, Florida, and raised by a single mother. "He currently utilizes his 'pro-athlete status' as a platform to educate and uplift youth athletes and communities by building their self-esteem, increasing mental health awareness and developing transformative life skills," according to information from organizers.