Suns legend Mark West was honored Friday as his free basketball camp for kids comes to an end after three decades. For the past 30 years, one week every summer, the children hustling around the courts inside The Salvation Army Ray & Joan KROC CENTER got more than just a lesson on the game.
"It's just a wonderful program, I'm so sorry this is the last year," said Tenequa Syles-Glenn.
The Air Force veteran and mother of triplets says the camp couldn't have come at a better time. Her family only just returned to the states after serving overseas in Japan, soon learning how lucky they were to sign up in time.
"I am inspired by the way that the West's reached back and uplifted the community and I hope that my children will see this and they will pay it forward one day," says Syles-Glenn.
She's talking about Phoenix Suns legend Mark West and his wife, Elaina. In 1992, along with local sponsors, they began hosting the free basketball camp aimed at low-income families. Bringing in motivational speakers and current and former players to inspire young minds. Pushing them to better their education, leadership and teamwork.
"He was a little bit younger when I did the camp, he's the OG now, but man he's always taken care of the community," said pro-basketball player Bryan Battle.
Battle is now holding the whistle, volunteering at the same camp that gave so much to him when he was young. Not only improving his skills on the court, but also in the classroom.
"When they first started the camp, they gave us coupon books, backpacks, a lot of items to be able to go to school and not have to worry about buying back-to-school supplies," said Battle.
It's a thoughtful practice that still takes place today, but sadly, for the last time. To honor the West's incredible generosity and service to the community, the city of Phoenix renamed the street outside the facility that has hosted the camp since the beginning Mark West Avenue. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also declared June 24 Mark and Elaina West Day.
"I was in total shock, you know what I mean," said Mark West following the presentation. "We did it because we wanted to give back to the community, it's not so much we wanted to get something out of it as much as we wanted to give some of ourselves to the community."
They certainly did just that, changing the lives of more than 4,000 children across the Valley in the process.