Hundreds of her fellow basketball campers were playing her favorite sport in the gym, but Dezalyn Woods sat quietly Monday afternoon in a room off to the side. The 10-year-old was waiting her turn for a free physical exam, a service the Mitchell "J.J." Anderson All-Star Basketball Camp has offered the past three years.

Hundreds of her fellow basketball campers were playing her favorite sport in the gym, but Dezalyn Woods sat quietly Monday afternoon in a room off to the side.


The 10-year-old was waiting her turn for a free physical exam, a service the Mitchell "J.J." Anderson All-Star Basketball Camp has offered the past three years. Staff members from the Children's Hospital of Illinois listened to heartbeats, checked blood pressure and gave advice on healthy eating and exercise.


"You've got to exercise daily and not drink too much soda," Woods said of the messages she received on the first day of camp.


The weeklong program at the Peoria Civic Center is offered free to children ages 7 to 14. Co-founder Dana Davis said attendance Monday was optional, so many of the more than 800 kids who signed up were not present.


"Today is what we call the health day," Davis said, explaining that one of the goals of the camp was to provide the children with information they needed to stay healthy.


Davis said some of the campers are not often exposed to good nutrition advice, and many come from families who don't have the money to pay for frequent check-ups. Last year the free physicals turned up two campers with heart murmurs and two others with asthma.


"Here's a way that every year they have an opportunity to have an in-depth physical," said Davis, the vice president of basketball operations and team programs with the Memphis Grizzlies.


Davis founded the 12th annual camp with Bradley Hall of Famer Anderson, who suffered a stroke in May. The fact that Anderson, 47, has had recent health problems underscores the importance of the check-ups, Davis said.


"As far as getting health care, the more the merrier," he said.


Children's Hospital staff members are on track to see about 120 campers by the time they finish exams today, said Erin Durbin, program coordinator with the hospital.


They will fit in as many kids as possible, Durbin said, but the aim is to serve those who might not otherwise have access to a doctor.


"We'd like to get to them all, but some of them don't need it," she said.


The hospital donates its services at the camp for free.


Muir Omni Graphics, Ameren-CILCO, Caterpillar, the Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino, Busey Bank and the Civic Center also help sponsor the camp.


Although campers learn about basketball, Davis said they also hear from speakers such as Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. The camp seeks to teach general life skills as well as basketball, he said.


"The basketball gets them here," Davis said.


Joe Crawford can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or jcrawford@pjstar.com.