Last summer, Roosevelt Boone worked as a counselor for football and ice hockey camps at the University of Maine in Orono.
After the experience, the Black Bears football player couldn’t help but wonder how many youngsters in eastern Maine never had the chance to attend such a camp.
“Those are great camps, but I realized that they are rather costly,” said Boone, who is from Washington, D.C.
He admitted his family would have been unable to come up with hundreds of dollars for a sports camp when he was younger.
“I thought, what if I could do something that focused not just on one sport, but a variety of sports that would be free for the kids that couldn’t afford to come — underprivileged kids in the area,” Boone said.
It has turned into a mission for Boone, who graduated from UMaine in May with a degree in kinesiology and physical education with a concentration in teaching and coaching. Next month, he will run a free Wellness and Nutrition Summer Youth Camp on the UMaine campus.
Boone is the program director for Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization he founded with the help of his mother, Alice Boone, who serves as its executive director.
“He’s the hardest working player I’ve ever coached,” said UMaine assistant football coach Kevin Cahill.
“He’s such a great kid. He’s going to get it done, no matter what. He’s a very dedicated human being.”
The vision statement for Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc., which has applied for nonprofit status, reads, “We believe a wellness and nutrition organization should be about more than just making money, it should be about responsibility and public good.”
The program, which will be held in partnership with UMaine’s Conference Services Division, is scheduled to run July 11-15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities will include instruction in the fundamentals of track, football, baseball, swimming and tennis in addition to other physical activities.
The camp is open to youngsters ages 10-17 from the Greater Bangor area whose parents meet Department of Health and Human Services Income guidelines.
Even though sports activities are the primary focus of the program, Boone is committed to educating kids on the importance of nutrition, health, wellness and hygiene.
“I figured why just focus on athletics, I might as well incorporate wellness and nutrition into the program. We’ve incorporated a class session into each day as well,” Boone said.
It has been a year since Boone began working on the project. He praised the efforts of his mother, who works at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for having done much of the legwork in terms of starting the business.
“She handles all the business aspects of the program as far as the legal documents and such,” Boone said. “It’s very time-consuming.”
The greatest challenge facing Boone is funding.
Boone estimates he will need approximately $8,000 to run the camp. That includes about $300 for each of the 10 counselors in addition to transportation costs and facility rentals.
The camp will provide a ride for those children who cannot get to and from Orono.
Originally, Boone had hoped to run a monthlong camp. With funding lacking, he reduced the camp to one week.
“It’s definitely been frustrating,” Boone said. “You have this great idea in your head and you want to do this and you want to do that, but at the end of the day you don’t have the money to do these things and provide these things.”
Boone continues to seek private donors and corporate sponsors who might be willing to help area youngsters enjoy UMaine’s facilities and work with some of its student-athletes.
“We’re looking for anyone willing to come volunteer or help out, any sponsors who can help us purchase notebooks or T-shirts,” he said. “To anybody in the area who’s willing to help, we greatly appreciate it.”
Gifts will be processed through the UMaine Conference Services Division and can be sent to: The University of Maine, Attn: Bruce G. Stinson, Conference Services Division, Chadbourne Hall, 1st Floor, Orono, ME 04469-5713.
Donations also can be made through Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc., Attn: Bruce Stinson, 20 Godfrey Drive, Orono, ME 044073.
Boone is committed to running the camp, even if he has to take out a loan to pay for it.
“He’s really been very persistent in pursuing this to make it happen,” said UMaine head football coach Jack Cosgrove. “That’s who he is. It’s Rosie Boone to be giving back, working to help others with some shared experiences of his life.”
Boone, who is doing graduate work at UMaine and will play football in the fall, has bigger plans for Strong Mind-Strong Body Inc. He wants to expand the UMaine camp to four weeks and also provide meals for participants.
Boone also intends to offer other camps elsewhere in the country.
“He’s going to be a very good coach down the road,” Cahill said. “He understands the kids and he’s a joy to have around.”
For more information on the SMSB Wellness and Nutrition Summer Youth Camp, contact Roosevelt Boone at 202-375-8033 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org(.)