A couple of weeks ago, a groups of kids from the Franklinton area -- probably with the urging of their parents -- thought they were going to a basketball camp on a Saturday.
Sure, there was a lot of talk about basketball, techniques, practice, drills -- and a lot of fun for the kids.
But the camp wasn't just about basketball -- it was about life and how to make the best of the opportunities we all get, especially when we are young and may not realize that opportunity is literally knocking on the door.
The one-day camp was put on by the Bibby brothers -- and some of their friends.
Fayetteville State Hall of Famer Fred Bibby and three-time NCAA and NBA champion Henry Bibby were on hand for their first Bibby Brothers Basketball Camp, offering kids a free chance to get tips and learn skills from legends and current coaches, including Fred's son, Doug, and area coaches, including Louisburg High's Mike Sheldon.
Although I wasn't there, it's a safe bet that there was a lot of focus on basketball -- but not JUST on basketball ... especially not from these men.
The Bibby Brothers had huge careers in athletics but, as Fred Bibby told the kids, "we played ball, but I'm a school teacher," he said. "The first thing I want my athletes to do is to learn.
In case that went over their young heads filled with hoop dreams, Fred Bibby explained that "you can't play the game unless you've got the grade-point average, that's the first thing.
"Going to class and playing a sport are the same," he said. "You get on a team, you have to learn how to play.
"You go to school, you've got to learn how to do your work.
"You've got to want it," he said. "You've got to work hard."
That was great advice from some gentlemen who haven't forgotten their roots in Franklinton -- and who are determined to give back to the community of their youth.
Perhaps the kids listened -- if only one listened and learned, that's huge -- perhaps they need to hear that message over and over again.
Perhaps some enterprising coaches or athletic directors will find a way to encapsulate the meaning of those few sentences into signs in or near the locker rooms of their school where kids, whether we believe it or not, often are paying a lot more attention to what goes on around them than we give them credit for.
This year was the first Bibby Brothers Basketball Camp in Franklinton -- but we only hope it won't be the last.
This year, the Bibby Brothers and their buddies teamed up to offer kids a free chance to get tips and learn skills from legends and current coaches, including Fred's son, Doug, and LHS coach Mike Sheldon.
That's a hugely impressive lineup for a small town athletic camp -- and I suspect many of the youngsters who attended were impressed by the caliber of the men leading the event as they should have been.
Most of the youngsters left the camp, I'm sure, with a better understanding of the game of basketball and they learned better how to play the game and now have a better understanding of the skills they need to master to be successful on the court.
But if Fred Bibby and son Doug have their druthers, the kids also took with them some motivation to learn, to study and to do their best in school.
Fred Bibby's parting advice to the youngsters was, "keep working hard. You can go a long way."
You can bet your last dollar he was not talking JUST about basketball.
And lest we forget Henry Bibby, he handed out some great advice, too. Henry reminded campers to "thank your mom, dad and guardians," he said. "We need more of that.
"Those are the people who support you."
Great advice ... and the advice applies to the rest of us as well.
The Bibby Brothers and their buddies accomplished a great deal on their own, in one day, with one group of kids.
Perhaps the rest of us can commit to supporting such efforts as these -- and reaching out to more kids with important, life-changing skills and advice.
The rest of us can "go a long way" toward helping the younger generation avoid the pitfalls, temptations and bad influences that surround them and grow into happy, successful adults, but first we have to get into the game, too, the game of life.
While we're talking about life-changing opportunities, it's important to recall the numbers that were reported last week about the scholarships and financial aid that the Class of 2019 from Franklin County Schools earned.
The students captured an astonishing $7,231,236 in scholarships -- and that figure may climb a little higher when the final numbers are tabulated.
Digging into those numbers, I counted at least eight scholarship awards that were in excess of $100,000 each.
And one of those awards had an estimated benefit of $148,000!
Talk about life-changing -- every one of those awards can change lives for the better.
The list of scholarships/awards that I saw did not include the names of the recipients, but the awards were broken down by school.
And there were a lot of awards from all four of our high school graduating classes this year and that says something great about our local kids and the local public school system!
Lets put those numbers in a little perspective. The capital outlay budget for the Franklin County School this year was $2 million, about 20 percent of which will be used to help construct the new Louisburg High Athletic Complex.
The students earned just over $7.2 million in scholarships -- or more than three and a half times the amount of money allocated for capital expenses by the school system.
That's the good news -- but there unfortunately is a flip side as well.
We've sent another graduating class out into the world -- many of them with major scholarships to better their educations at any number of institutions of higher learning.
But when they complete college and maybe graduate school -- and hopefully most will -- there won't be many jobs awaiting them here in Franklin County.
Once again, we've educated another group of bright, motivated, dedicated young people only to have to watch helplessly as they relocate elsewhere to build their careers and raise their families.
About the best we can hope for is that they can do that close enough to good old Franklin County that they can come home to visit -- perhaps like those Bibby Brothers do -- and give something back!
But our public officials have to quit just paying lip service to this annual "brain drain" and find innovative, effective ways to rebuild the local job market, not only for these kids but for all Franklin County young people.
We're spending millions to educate our young people and prepare them for bright futures -- but those bright futures are rarely found in Franklin County.
We have to change that -- but the first step is to admit that what we have been doing is not working and is showing no signs it ever will work.
It's time for some fresh thinking and a new approach.
Your tax dollars!
In case you've wondered, it's your tax dollars that are being burned up in recent days here in Louisburg by our beloved North Carolina Department of Transportation.
In case you've missed it, contractors hired by DOT have been jack-hammering up sections of the newly laid sidewalks along Bickett Boulevard and South Main Street, ripping out the handicap ramps and replacing them with slightly different ramps.
Maybe those changes are needed, I don't really know.
What I know is that those sidewalks are almost brand new, some less than a year old.
And the plans for those sidewalks were reviewed, and reviewed and reviewed by DOT, literally for years, before they were finally approved.
In fact the delays were so bad that some town officials' blood pressures were about to hit stroke levels because what seemed like a relatively simple project was taking so darn long.
If you're like me, you might have thought that sidewalks were pretty simple and straight-forward projects.
I mean how hard is it to install some concrete forms, make sure they are level and fill 'em with concrete before smoothing them down and watching them dry? In the world of construction, that seems pretty basic.
Apparently the joke is on us because when DOT gets involved, this process takes years of study, review and countless revisions.
Even that would be okay -- IF the final project was done correctly and that was the end of things.
But apparently after all those reviews and study, and even after final approvals, the handicap ramps didn't pass muster with someone -- and many thousands of dollars were used to correct something that should have been prevented when the sidewalks were just drawings on paper.
Shoot, I'd bet that the money used on the ramp repairs would have been enough to put a sidewalk along the east side of the Bickett Boulevard bridge over the Tar River which, for reasons that have never been explained, was built without a way for pedestrians to cross the river on the east side without risking life and limb in the insane traffic patterns of Bickett!
Oh, well, I suppose it's only money. I'm just glad it was your tax dollars they burned, not mine. (Yes, I'm delusional about that, but such delusions sometimes help me get through the day!)
Seriously, you might want to try it!