"Watch me shoot from all the way over here!" 13-year-old Corbin shouted enthusiastically.
Like many of our kids, Corbin experienced several traumatic events early in his life. Before coming to Cunningham, he was abandoned by his mother, witnessed the death of his father, and then struggled as he moved from a residential facility to a foster home without success. We may never know the full impact of his early life experiences, but we know he has challenges engaging with others and developing relationships and he easily becomes obsessed with certain ideas and actions.
Corbin is passionate about basketball - especially Fighting Illini Basketball. That passion is helping him have positive interactions with his peers and staff. He is now developing friendships.
When Corbin first came to Cunningham, staff helped him share his love for basketball with the other boys in his house. Together, they created a miniature replica of the State Farm Center Arena's basketball court using duct tape on the plain tile floor in the entrance of the unit.
This make-shift basketball court remains in place after more than 2 years, with countless shots taken on the Nerf ball hoops on either end of the entryway. The court provides fun for the boys and so much more. Games like basketball are known to have therapeutic benefits ranging from the more obvious--hand-eye coordination or spacial awareness--to more subtle development of social and self regulating skills.
Sometimes the boys stayed indoors, even during beautiful spring and summer weather, because they lacked an outdoor alternative. That is until this summer. Cunningham was able to place a concrete pad and basketball hoop outside Goodman Cottage, thanks to a generous grant from the Orange Krush (Krush) Foundation. The Krush is a unique, student-run organization that is both the booster group for the Fighting Illini basketball team and a charitable donor to non-profit agencies in the community. They are long-time champions of our kids and Cunningham partners.
Over the past weeks, Corbin and the other boys in his residential unit have been busy enjoying daily practice from the line! The laughter pouring from the court, along with the occasional, good-natured trash talk as the boys challenge one another to make a tough shot. It's a joy for our staff! It means the boys are forming relationships, making connections, and applying skills they will use throughout their lives.
Corbin recently went shopping with his staff at an Illini fan store and enjoyed picking out the perfect Illini basketball to use when he gears up and takes the court with his friends.