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Jason Olson
Troy Wallin of Gilbert, Ariz., defends on a shot by his 11-year-old son Weston as the and other fathers and sons participate in a sports camp at BYU in 2009. The annual event brings together hundreds of participants to learn basketball skills and a variety of other sports while building the father-son bond.

PROVO – More than 800 fathers and sons from across the country spent Memorial Day weekend bonding through sports and spiritual activities at Brigham Young University.

“The BYU fathers-and-sons camp is the biggest camp we do, and we think it’s the best camp we do,” said Brian Santiago, BYU senior associate athletics director. “It highlights the special relationship between fathers and sons and it’s a great opportunity for them to connect. It’s a camp we look forward to.”

Santiago said about 825 people attended the 14th annual fathers-and-sons camp. These campers participated in multiple activities, interacted with BYU coaches and athletes, ate in the cafeteria and slept in the dorms from Friday to Monday, May 25-28.

In order to accommodate more campers, more activities (“stations”) were added this year. Participants played 3-on-3 basketball, flag football, baseball, soccer, kickball and other team sports. They also watched the BYU baseball team play Gonzaga University and were able to experience carrying the "Y" flag and being on the football field at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Santiago said other highlights included traveling to Temple Square on Sunday to attend “Music and the Spoken Word” at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, followed by sacrament meeting in the Assembly Hall.

Elder Gifford Nielsen, an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke in the meeting, along with BYU basketball coach Dave Rose and Rose's wife and daughter.

Elder Nielsen described the meeting as a deeply spiritual experience and said he enjoyed listening to Coach Rose and his family. In his remarks, he encouraged the fathers and sons to share their favorite scripture with each other during the day. He shared his favorite scripture, Matthew 5:14-16, and exhorted the men and boys to “let their lights so shine before men.”

“Is there anything better than seeing fathers with arms around their sons? When you have fathers and sons, it’s important to bond with special memories and traditions,” said Elder Nielsen, a former BYU and NFL quarterback. “I didn’t see everything (over the weekend), but what I did see was full of goodness, respect, faith and a foundation of Jesus Christ — a good recipe for success.”

The 10 priests and 24 deacons who administered and passed the bread and water to such a massive congregation impressed Elder Nielsen.

“It was really remarkable to witness the young men exercise their priesthood duties,” Elder Nielsen said, “and the way they did it was beautiful.”

On Sunday evening, former BYU, NBA and international basketball player Travis Hansen spoke at a fireside. Hansen, who took part in the camp as a player and who was attending for the first time with his sons, shared experiences from his playing days, his mission and his charitable foundation. He encouraged the young men to set goals and prepare to serve missions.

“The camp was phenomenal and well-run,” Hansen said. “As a father, you are looking to spend quality time with your son, and I can’t think of a better place to do it. It was a unique experience.”

Recently returned missionary and Cougar basketball player Tyler Haws and his father, Marty Haws, also a former BYU player, spoke to the camp attendees Monday morning. Tyler Haws said he grew up attending the fathers-and-sons camp with his father and relished coming back. While overseeing the 3-on-3 station with his father, he had fun meeting and shaking hands with campers from Virginia to California.

“Many had seen the LDS.org video and they wanted to talk about it," Haws said. "They thanked me for trying to be a good example."

In his remarks, Haws spoke of the impact his mission to the Philippines had on his life.

“I said my mission was the greatest blessing that has ever happened to me, and I tried to help kids realize the importance of serving a mission, making the decision to serve and preparing for when that time comes,” he said. “If they invite us back, I’d be excited to do it again.”

Because the camp fills so rapidly each year, Santiago advised that fathers and sons plan ahead and register early for 2013. For more information, visit www.byusportscamps.com.

“It’s a pretty high-demand camp, but a must for any father who wants to spend time with his son and experience what BYU athletics is all about,” Santiago said.

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