Former Glenwood Springs basketball star Cassandra Irving (Casey Hailey in high school) continues to expand her Game On sports camps, going from Glenwood Springs to India this past spring to now hosting a camp in Ukraine for orphaned children.
Through all of that, Irving is looking to expand beyond basketball and baseball into hockey — while also giving back to the Glenwood Springs community, which has helped her Game On program in more ways than one.
Following Game On’s girls basketball camp this past spring in India that helped nearly 40 girls from the Dalit — lower-caste people in India’s ancient class structure — Irving and her Game On camp traveled to Ukraine three weeks ago thanks to proceeds from Game On’s summer camp at Sayre Park.
“I first traveled to Ukraine about four years ago,” Irving said during a phone interview. “It was right before the Russian war started, so while there I met these orphans that were under the communist regime, and they were having a really hard time. So I thought that sports would be a great way to have fun, get strong and inspire a competitive mindset in these children.”
The success of that camp inspired Irving and her support team to expand beyond basketball, leading to the formation of a hockey camp next July through Game On that will be run by former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Frank Caprice and former Canadian Olympic gold medalist Cheryl Pounder. According to Irving, the camp is set to run in the last part of July next summer, but the location has yet to be determined.
Living in Canada year-round, Irving was able to make a connection with Caprice through the church she attends, while Pounder serves as the hockey coach for Irving’s 9-year-old son Jackson.
The creation of the hockey camp now marks three sports camps that Irving and Game On will hold next summer in the Roaring Fork Valley. Once again, Irving will use the proceeds from her upcoming Game On camp at the Glenwood Recreation Center, set for Dec. 19-22, to go abroad for a sports camp, but this time she’s looking to add a twist to the trip.
“I’ve experimented with my own children [going abroad for camps], so now I want to take Game On players and let them experience the trip,” Irving said. “This May I want to take young athletes from the Roaring Fork valley with me to travel overseas, teach sports and culture while forming friendships with other children they might never have had the chance to meet in their lives. It’s all about allowing these children to become global citizens. That’s what is important to us.”
While looking not only to give back to her community by taking children from the valley with her, Irving — who is all too familiar with the asphalt basketball courts at Sayre Park — is looking to upgrade the park, providing athletes with a safe environment to play in year-round, while also giving the community another place to hold large events.
“We’re partnering with Mike Picore and Hoop D’Ville to try and renovate the basketball courts at Sayre Park,” Irving said. The surface is “just layer on top of layer at the basketball court, so that’s caused the hoops to be off from regulation height. So we’re looking to tear up the court and replace it, and we’re hoping that we receive the grant we applied for to make this happen.”
The grant, which Hoop D’Ville and Game On applied for through King Soopers, will cover a majority of the costs. Game On is also taking donations through GameOnCamps.com in hopes of raising enough money to complete the project.
Outside of new basketball courts and hoops, Game On and Hoop D’Ville are looking to build an intermediate court for younger players, giving them the space needed to develop their games while also allowing them to be separated from the older players. Down the line, Game On and Hoop D’Ville are also looking to place seating around the court, allowing the park to host big events throughout the spring, summer and fall, giving the community another large gathering place.
The total cost of the renovation should come in somewhere around $20,000, according to Irving.
Although Irving might not live in the valley anymore, she hasn’t forgotten where she’s come from, or who has helped make her dreams for Game On come true.