10/23/18 Harlem Globetrotter ‘El Gato’ dazzles Hillcrest students with tricks, jokes and heartwarming message

One cool cat

Harlem Globetrotter Orlando “El Gato” Melendez performs tricks for Hillcrest Elementary School Students during an anti-bullying program on Oct. 22.

Steven Mantilla / Times-News

Harlem Globetrotter Orlando “El Gato” Melendez performs tricks for Hillcrest Elementary School Students during an anti-bullying program on Oct. 22.

Harlem Globetrotter ‘El Gato’ dazzles Hillcrest students with tricks, jokes and heartwarming message
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 10/23/18     
Reprinted with permission.  
 
The Harlem Globetrotters have a message for Alamance County kids.
Team member Orlando "El Gato" Melendez, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, visited Hillcrest Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 22, to teach students the ABCs of antibullying and — of course — to show off some sweet tricks.

As the Globetrotter’s theme “Sweet Georgia Brown” played (It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it?), Melendez taught a few lucky members of the audience some of the easier tricks in his arsenal.

The kids laughed and cheered on their peers as they attempted to dribble the ball under their legs and pass it to the next person by bumping it with their butts.

And when Melendez took the famed red-white-andblue basketball to show off his talents, the crowd went wild.

But the fun and engaging event also had an important message: Stop bullying.

Currently, the team hosts more than 350 events each year at schools across the United States, spreading the message of Action, Bravery and Compassion — a program developed in partnership with the National Campaign to Stop Violence.

Melendez, tall and clad in his official Globetrotters uniform, expertly mixed a very serious message with fun games and jokes.

“It takes a lot of bravery to go to somebody who’s getting bullied and tell the bully to stop,” he said. “It takes a lot of bravery. … You know the best way to be brave? It’s to stand up for yourself, stand up for others, tell the bully to stop, and walk away [with a big smile]. Why? Because you are showing the bully that he or she is not taking away your happiness, right?”

The Globetrotters were founded in Chicago in 1926 and have a long history of acceptance and acts of goodwill.

Their victories in the 1940s showed a segregated America that African-Americans could excel on a national stage, eventually leading Globetrotter Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton to become the first African-American player to sign a contract with the National Basketball Association.

And in 1985, Lynette Woodard became the first woman to join a men’s pro basketball team when she became a Globetrotter. Since then, eight more women have played on the team. This helped forge a path for the WNBA, which was founded in 1996.

These days, the team is known more for wholesome family entertainment than they are for sports, performing more than 450 shows worldwide each year.

Melendez told the audience he’s been to all 50 states and 73 countries, where he’s done things like taking a selfie with a buffalo and climbing to the top of a volcano.

“I got to see some of those things, and that’s what happens when you work hard and listen to your teachers, listen to your coaches, and do your work: you get a chance. Lots of you will get a chance to do this really, really cool stuff,” he said.

See the Harlem Globetrotters perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Elon University’s Schar Center, 542 N. Williamson Ave., Elon.