Lantz talking to Keller Park Basketball Campers

Kory Lantz is reaching the urban youth of the Keller Park neighborhood through something he loves —basketball. “It’s a sort of universal language that breaks social, economic and racial barriers,” Lantz says.

And for three days in July, Lantz facilitated an evening basketball camp for more than 75 youth. In its third year, the camp has seen tremendous growth in terms of both campers and volunteers. Of the camp’s 20 volunteer counselors, eight are former Bethel basketball players.

“I helped run Bethel basketball camps for four years,” says Lantz, who was a standout on the Bethel team. “It seemed natural to use the talents God has given me and the other players.”

Though the draw of the Keller Park camp is basketball, the purpose of the camp is threefold: to build basketball skills, to connect with Keller Park Church and to experience love that campers can attribute to Jesus Christ. Counselors also work closely with campers, teaching them teamwork, building relationships and modeling a positive attitude.

And each evening, speakers like Bethel Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Lightfoot come and talk to campers about both basketball and life skills. “I just try to talk to the kids at Keller Park about how important their attitude is as they take on the daily challenges of life. Attitude determines their altitude,” Lightfoot says.

Lightfoot, through Bethel, also donated balls and hoops for the camp. He believes in what Lantz is doing in Keller Park, and it lines up with Bethel’s mission to serve others.

Lantz says that almost everyone who is involved in the camp has a Bethel connection of some sort. Two of the volunteers are Bethel students who will be living in Keller Park as part of Bethel’s urban ministry experience next semester, where they’ll live and serve in the community.

And just like the urban ministry experience, the hope of the camp is to make lasting connections with neighbors. “What we hope will come out of this is a good feeling about the neighborhood and the church — that the kids will know they have a place here. And we also want them to learn respect. This can impact the community greatly,” Lantz says.

One of the things Lantz enjoys most about the camp is watching kids come back year after year and seeing their growth — both internally and in their basketball skills. He’s worked closely with campers like 12-year-old Tecory Gordon, who has come back for two consecutive years.

“I like that people from Bethel took time to help us with basketball skills, and I learned that when you work with a team, you can accomplish much more than you can by yourself,” Gordon says.

To know he’s making a difference is gratifying for Lantz, who heads up Transformation Ministries in partnership with Keller Park Church. He and his wife, Allison, focus on the youth and families of the neighborhood. They facilitate services such as homework club, Iron Sharpening Iron (ISI) — a discipleship group, Crew youth group and Sunday morning breakfast. They also routinely host youth in their home and oversee play at Keller Park Court.