damen bell-holter

Damen Bell-Holter. (instagram.com/blessed2blessbasketball)

A professional basketball player from Southeast Alaska is bringing a four-day youth basketball camp to Wrangell this summer.

Damen Bell-Holter started Blessed 2 Bless Basketball camps that combine teaching basketball fundamentals with life lessons.

He grew up in Hydaburg and played basketball at Mt. Edgecumbe High School and Ketchikan High School. After college, Bell-Holter was a member of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, and is now playing professionally in Finland. He is the first Haida man to play in the NBA.

The Alaska Native Sisterhood Association, a local nonprofit, is partnering with Bell-Holter’s organization to bring him to Wrangell.

Tis Peterman of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Association, or ANSA, said they feel very fortunate to have Bell-Holter coming in the beginning of June.

“He does basketball camps all over Alaska, starting in B.C., and then he works his way up through Southeast. He goes up to Tanana, and then heads down to Utah,” Peterman said. “And he brings a message with his basketball camp. And it’s suicide prevention, as well as an anti-drug type of message.”

According to a press release, Bell-Holter’s message is based on the difficulties he experienced growing up in a rural village. That’s why topics like alcohol, drugs, abuse, depression and suicide are included in the program. Bell-Holter said focusing on basketball helped him leave that behind.

Carol Snoddy of ANSA said all children in grades four through 12 can join the camp, with sessions broken up into three different age groups.

“What we’re doing right now is fundraising, because we want to try to make sure that every child in Wrangell that wants to take this basketball camp can participate without worrying about paying for it,” Snoddy said.

Funds would cover Bell-Holter’s travel, and supplies and lunches for camp participants.

Peterman and Snoddy said ANSA is also working on bringing some other cultural and youth activities to Wrangell this year.

An artist from Craig will be in town to teach formline traditional art on skateboards. ANSA is also collecting materials for basket weaving, beading and paddle-decorating classes.

Snoddy said anyone can join ANSA meetings on Mondays at noon in the SNO building to discuss fundraisers for these events.