Reverend Tom Laymon and his wife, Janice, of the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington, have created a new way for the organization to reach kids.
Two years after the sudden death of their adopted son, Alazar, the Laymon’s decided to host a free, week long basketball camp—Alazar’s Basketball Camp.
“We thought, let’s name it after Alazar,” Laymon said. “He loved basketball. He would want to be here.”
Meeting their son
Never having children of their own, the Laymons traveled to Ethiopia in 2012 to adopt a child. Through International Family Services and Adoption Avenues, the Laymons adopted Alazar and spent a week there with him.
At the time of the adoption, Alazar did not know much English and had epilepsy-a brain disorder that causes seizures. The couple quickly learned that despite the medications he was taking, Alazar suffered from a seizure every morning.
In addition to the epilepsy, the couple was unsure of Alazar’s exact age. There was no birth certificate on record in his home country.
The Laymons took Alazar to the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, where they were able to determine that Alazar was about seven years old. Under duPont care, Alazar started medications to get his seizures under control.
Still, within 11 months of living with the Laymons and after several, in what Tom called “uncontrolled” seizures, Alazar died from a rare complication called Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
“His brain and his heart just shut off one morning and we couldn’t revive him,” Tom recalled. “And it was really hard for us, but this [camp] is a way for us to honor him. Honor his love of basketball. And his love of Jesus.”
A typical day at camp
Each day, the 9 to 11-year-old campers arrive to the Sunday Breakfast Mission gym, shoot around and eat a free lunch. Campers then play different types of basketball related games like knockout.
Newell Smith, district superintendent of 60 Church of Nazarene congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, serves as head coach of the camp. Smith has hosted other summer basketball camps in Philadelphia for several years, but these camps are generally outdoors and have a different playing style.
“I’ve had to learn just in the difference between in what I would call street basketball versus organized basketball,” Smith explained. “It’s two different games. And you can’t necessarily take street basketball away from the kids because that’s what they’ve grown up with and that’s what they know. So you try to help them to learn a few of the fundamentals.”
Some of the fundamentals skills include dribbling, catching a ball, shooting, and guarding players.
Jaydon Kravitz, who attended the camp with his brother, said he felt happy that his skills were improving.
“I’ve [also] learned that you have to have discipline in your life to just survive,” Kravitz said.
“I’m investing in the kids hoping that they will seize the opportunity to make something good out their lives,” Smith said. “That’s my prayer.”
Tom said they want to have more children participate next summer.
“It’s so important to us to reach out to kids and give them this opportunity,” Tom said. “Let them grow in this way and learn the positive things of sports, but also of Christian witness.”
“Alazar was a special boy to us. He was our only boy. We just want all kids to be loved like we loved our little boy Alazar.”