Getting behind the Covid-19 vaccine drive is a big message and Turanga Health has brought in a big man to help deliver it.
The Tairawhiti health organisation is this week hosting New Zealand basketball great Pero Cameron and he's taking a double-play approach to his visit.
Today and tomorrow he and Tall Ferns guard Lauryn Hippolite are spending time at Gisborne and rural schools to support the Turanga Health/Basketball New Zealand programme Hoops In Schools.
Then, on Saturday, Cameron will visit Turanga Health's pop-up clinic at Blackpool Park at 10am to 11.30am to help support the vaccination programme.
At two metres tall, the former Tall Black and now Tall Blacks coach will be hard to miss.
“It's not often you see a size 17 shoe wandering around our clinics so Pero will bring a big presence to that space,” Turanga Health events co-ordinator Dallas Poi says.
“He brings so much experience, not just around achieving big things in international sport, but also on making his way in the world with real mana.
“We've always seen basketball as a great way to engage rangatahi in particular, and you don't get any bigger than Pero Cameron!”
For Cameron, basketball was a way to reconnect with young people who had missed out on so much over the nearly two years of the pandemic.
“It's the same with the vaccine,” he said. “We are an active people so, apart from saving lives, it is a way to reclaim our freedoms, to be together and enjoy the things we are passionate about.”
Widely seen as the greatest international basketballer New Zealand has produced, Cameron played for the Tall Blacks a record 227 times (1993-2010) — 170 as captain — was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to basketball, and in 2017 became the first New Zealander inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame.
For 14 years he lived on Australia's Gold Coast, commuting to fulfil his roles as Tall Blacks assistant coach (2011-2019) and interim head coach (2019-2021).
But in October he returned to New Zealand to be full-time head coach of the Tall Blacks, who he plans to lead to the 2023 FIBA World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Cameron has also taken on the role of basketball director for the Taranaki Steelformers Mountain Airs, allowing him to reconnect with former Turanga Health senior staffer and Rising Suns legend Dwayne “Tama” Tamatea, who relocated to Taranaki last year.
“Aotearoa is a small country and the world of basketball is even smaller, so it's no surprise those two are good friends,” Poi says.
“During Pero's visit, Tama will be taking him around the schools and clinic so it will be great to have our old friend back with us . . . if only for a short while.”
The Blackpool Park pop-up already has a point of difference in that the park has tracks running through it, so the Tu Mai collective is able to bring in the Wa165 steam train for a bit of whānau fun.
Turanga Health's other weekend clinics are all from 10am to 2pm on Sunday and include the drive-through at Harry Barker Reserve; the Waikohu clinic at Currie Place (Te Karaka), and the drive-through at Patutahi Hall.
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