Bayside High’s boys basketball players certainly stood out in a third-grade class at Westside Elementary, the average height of the players about twice that of the students.
Bears basketball coach Daniel Miller took his team there nine days ago because it’s what the members of the program do. This time, they were reading to children and delivering t-shirts. It was the third year in a row they had done so for a grade-school class.
In November, it was helping different organizations to provide food baskets for families around Brevard County.
August’s giveaway was backpacks filled with necessary items for families that wouldn’t have been able to afford them. The team has gone to Daily Bread to prepare and serve meals to the homeless, worked at the toy warehouse of IMpower Florida, assembling toys and sorting them into bags to be given away as gifts.
Miller started Bears Care three years ago, and while community involvement is not a new thing for sports teams, Miller and the Bears have taken it farther than most, organizing at least one major project a month throughout the year.
“I wanted the community to look differently at our teenage boys,” he said. “I wanted them to know that there are actually good kids doing good things.”
Miller was honored last year by the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, receiving the 2016 Brevard County Community Award.
Wife Shellie, a supervisor at IMpower, has been key to the community work.
“She plays a huge role in everything we do,” Daniel Miller said. “She keeps me organized. We kind of do everything basketball-wise as a family.”
That includes son Shyheim, who is 18 and happens to be a member of the Bayside team. He said Bears Care has “taught me how to have respect for people and about needs in the community.”
Shyheim has talked to his dad about tutoring and other ways he can impact the community.
While one of Miller’s original founding principles involved how the community saw youth, he’s also seen impacted by what they’ve done. He specifically recalled a visit to Daily Bread.
“It makes them maybe appreciate a little bit more what they have,” he said. “They were pretty affected by the people they saw and the conditions.”
The team helped assemble playground equipment for Brevard’s Field of Dreams a few miles north of the school. Players volunteered at the Humane Society and donated pet supplies.
“Our focus in the basketball program has always been more on developing men rather than developing basketball players,” Miller said.
That doesn’t mean basketball hasn’t been in the picture. Players have bought basketballs to donate to Special Olympics, and for two years in a row, Miller has donated five spots in his summer basketball camp to children in foster care.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or email@example.com. Follow facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum and @Brian_McCallum.