VCU basketball stars Mo Alie-Cox (B.S.’15/GPA) and Torey Burston embraced the smiling fathers and sons as they entered the classroom Wednesday at the Richmond City Justice Center.
The men — inmates at the Richmond and Chesterfield jails — and their sons, ranging from pre-schoolers to eighth graders, sat in rapt silence as the student athletes relayed their motivational message of hope, hard work and perseverance and then shared some dribbling and twirling techniques.
“This means a lot to me,” said Jerrylee Wright, holding the hand of his 4-year-old son, Jerrylee Jr., before heading to the gym with the group to play ball. “Being able to spend time with him on the basketball court is a blessing. Words can’t describe it. And just hearing the insights from Mo and Torey means a lot.”
Alie-Cox, who’s pursuing his master’s in Criminal Justice from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU, and Burston, a homeland security and emergency preparedness major at the Wilder School, came to the jail as part of Hoops for Hope, a program sponsored by the Richmond City and Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Offices to help male inmates build relationships with their sons.
Hoops for Hope is part of the REAL — Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles — program at the Richmond jail, started by Wilder School alumna Sarah Scarbrough, director of internal programs. In the voluntary program, inmates to take classes in areas including parenting skills, anger management and remedial math. The men had to apply to participate in Hoops for Hope and were excited about meeting the players.
“I can’t say enough about the athletes coming here. They are role models and great examples,” said Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. “They’re helping the fathers in the program by being here. You can be a good father inside the jail, but you can be a better father outside the jail.”