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September 19, 2013

MCS junior organizes summer camp to honor grandfather

Ward hopes to make 'Bill Bennis' annual event

Cooperstown Crier

---- — In most ways, the Bill Bennis Basketball Camp in Milford in August resembled any other summer camp. There were campers, drills, counselors and a guest speaker. What made the camp different was the organizer: 16-year-old Milford Central School junior Will Ward.

Ward said he organized the camp to honor his late grandfather, who taught him the game and shared with him a love of basketball.

“My grandfather played basketball as a young adult and when I was 7 years old he introduced me to the game that I now am passionate about,” Ward said. “He taught me the game of basketball, how to shoot, dribble, pass and other necessary tools I need to achieve success on the court. Most importantly he taught me how to be the best person I could be both on and off the court.”

Bennis, whom Ward was named after, passed away in 2010 from Lewy Body Dementia. He was a high school basketball star in Cranford, N.J., and graduated from Cranford High School in 1947, according to his obituary in the Cranford Chronicle.  

The camp, for boys and girls in the third- through eighth-grade, took place Aug. 19 to 23 at MCS. It taught basketball fundamentals and included one-on-one training, drills and games.

Oneonta State men’s basketball coach Vince Medici was the guest speaker. He spoke to the kids about hard work both on and off the court.

“That was an amazing undertaking on his part,” said Frank Spurchise, Ward’s soccer and basketball coach at MCS and a counselor at the camp. “For a kid that age to do something like that, it was really outstanding.”

Proceeds from the camp will benefit the Lewy Body Dementia Association and the Milford Education Foundation.

“In turn, I feel with the money raised, going to MEF and LBDA, (it) will benefit those in our community and for those who have to battle with the same disease that took my grandfather’s life,” Ward said.

Ward recruited his high school coaches, teammates and older sister, Avalon, a 2012 MCS graduate and a Daily Star first team all-star basketball player that year, to be counselors.

Setting up and running the camp wasn’t easy, Ward said.

“The camp was a lot more work than I had expected,” he said, “mailing out the information sheets, making an itinerary for each day. However, each day of the camp I could see each kid grow as a basketball player with the values of respect, hard work and dedication.

“Without the help of my counselors and the support from my family, I could not have put this camp together,” he continued.

“He did the work himself,” Spurchise said. “Every day he was out there running things.”

Ward said it was also rewarding when the campers started talking about coming back next summer.

“In retrospect, the hard work paid off when parents of the campers told me their children couldn’t wait to come back for the next day and encouraged me to continue with the camp next year,” he said.

Ward said he plans to run the camp again next summer and hopes to make it an annual event.

Spurchise seconded Ward’s intention. “I sure hope he does it again,” he said.