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Q2 AOW: Camping with 'Big Al'

Allie Cummings Camp.png
Posted at 1:00 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 18:58:00-04

BILLINGS - Allie Cummings was not exceptional. Or even satisfactory, by her standards.

"I was terrible," she recalled to MTN Sports with a laugh. "I was not good."

Cummings — Big Al among friends — was reminiscing about her start in youth basketball while standing on the same court over a decade later.

"This is where my love of the game started," Cummings said. "This is where I had my first practices, my first games. I never thought I would be where I am today."

Where she is today is a senior at Billings Senior primed for her final season before elevating to college ball at Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego. But on this morning, she's priming first, second and third graders at Big Al's free Allie-Hoops Camp.

Jag, one of the young campers, explains what's happening.

"Somebody is on defense, and somebody is on offense and you have to try to like... get the ball in the hoop."

"I just wanted to make a free camp because I knew not everyone can afford everything," Cummings said. "And I wanted to give something back to Upward so kids that can't afford it have somewhere to play."

A lot of kids get their first taste of hoops in the Upward Basketball Program at Freedom Church, including Big Al when she was little.

Cummings was recently exploring the cost for today's kids to join -- between $160 and $180 per season -- and wondered how needy families afford it.

"She wanted to do something that would possibly impact a lot of girls," said her dad Kris. "So she decided to do a free camp and ask for donations to help offset some of the costs for girls to get involved in, possibly, Upward."

The camp was a hit, filled to maximum capacity with t-shirts, prizes like custom foam fingers, candy, and wristbands. There was clearly no shortage of energy.

And who did Big Al recruit to help keep the chaos in check?

"These are my teammates and former players, my best friends," she pointed out.

Brenna Linse is a current Senior High teammate.

"I know I was a little bit more shy at these (camps), so with the shy ones I try to do a little dance-off and get them out of their shell a little bit," Linse said of her approach.

Community Life Sports Director Kat Moran poked her head into the gym with delight.

"To walk in and see what these folks have put together for us, it's just kind of a heart racer," Moran said with a grin.

Donations of $1,250 more than doubled the $500 Cummings had hoped for, meaning a number of kids who's families aren't able to afford joining an Upward team now have a chance. Online registration is open for basketball players grades 1-6 and cheerleaders grades K-6.

As the sound of bouncing basketballs and energized kids echoed throughout the morning, Cummings freely revealed her secret of success to camping with Big Al.

"The key is to make everything a competition," Cummings said with a laugh, "...because they always want to win."