Published: Jun 20, 2012 01:31 PM
Modified: Jun 20, 2012 01:32 PM
The Eric Montross Father’s Day Basketball Camp celebrated its 18th year last Sunday, marking nearly two decades of giving dads and their kids a unique weekend experience on the court while raising money for N.C. Children’s Hospital.
The Montross Camp dates its origin to 1993, in the fall after Eric Montross and his University of North Carolina basketball teammates had won the 1993 NCAA men’s national championship in the spring.
Montross already was a regular visitor to patients at the Children’s Hospital. This time, he made a special trip to the hospital at the request of a staff member to meet Jason Clark, a young cancer patient and huge Tar Heels fan.
“I came to the Children’s Hospital expecting a one-time encounter – an autographed basketball, some pictures, a quick conversation to brighten this kid’s spirits – but that visit with Jason changed my life,” said Montross, now retired from the NBA and working as a commentator for the UNC Tar Heels basketball team.
That day turned out to be the first of many Montross spent with Clark.
“Soon I was no longer just a UNC basketball player, and Jason was no longer just a patient in the hospital,” recalls Montross. “We became true friends.”
After Clark lost a courageous, nine-month battle with cancer, Montross, his wife, Laura, and the Clark family established the Eric Montross Father’s Day Basketball Camp to help carry out Jason’s wishes for the new children’s hospital at UNC, then under construction.
They held the first annual camp for kids ages 7-13 and their fathers in 1994 and, since then, have raised more than $1 million to fund a variety of N.C. Children’s Hospital projects.
The first project was the development of the Jason Clark Teen Activity Center, which offers teenage patients a fun escape from their hospital rooms. The nearly $150,000 raised during this year’s camp will fund renovations to the room.