By Amanda Hart, Dakota Wesleyan
When we look at the world we live in, it is difficult to escape the obvious disadvantages that plague the less fortunate. Too many people lack the necessary means to live above the poverty line, and more often than not, it is the children who suffer most.
As former NAIA college basketball players, Jared Mace and Nathan Holthenrichs, know about the surplus of shoes a student-athlete manages to stack up over time. It occurred to them that, by donating the shoes not being used anymore, they could meet someone else's needs around the world. Mace and Holthenrichs inspiration came after watching a documentary about NBA Center DeSagana Diop, who is from Senegal, Africa.
"We saw all the young people out there who were playing sports without shoes. We realized that if we didn't have a pair of shoes or a ball in our hands, we probably wouldn't have pursued our dreams to play college basketball," said Mace, who is now Hope 4 Hoopers president.
With that in mind, they made a commitment to put a pair of shoes on every athlete so every child's hopes and dreams could remain alive. In June of 2011, while they were sitting in their living room, the idea for Hope 4 Hoopers was born.
First, Mace and Holthenrichs, who were former basketball players at Warner Pacific College (Ore.), began conducting monthly basketball camps locally to collect athletics shoes of all shapes and sizes. The young people who attend those camps learn the fundamentals of basketball, speed and agility, leadership, and service.
"Kids are helping kids - it's a beautiful concept that is teaching our future leaders the importance of helping one another," Holthenrichs said. "We are committed to building better athletes, better leaders, and better communities."
On the outside looking in, a pair of shoes may not seem like much. In fact, many would argue that it's a waste. Why not provide children with food, water, and the other essentials that they are probably lacking? It's simple - a pair of shoes for these children gives them the ability to dream bigger.
With a pair of shoes, they're just another kid. It gives them the opportunity to look beyond where they are and imagine where they could be. Hope 4 Hoopers isn't just about giving shoes to children who don't have them, it is creating opportunities that spark change.
Hope 4Hoopers' first partnership was with the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) because of the conference's commitment to creating great people, not just great athletes. The CCC agreed to have an athletics shoe fundraising game once a year. They are the pioneers of a "Playing for Kickz" event. At this event, fans who bring a pair of shoes get in free and receive a raffle ticket for t-shirts, backpacks, and a signed team basketball.
"We are hoping that every college in the nation will jump on board, so more and more young people will have the opportunity to follow their dreams" said Ryan Kaiser, Warner Pacific athletics director.
Although the CCC was a great start, Mace and Holthenrichs hope to make an even larger impact in the coming years.
"We wanted to start with about ten schools as a test market to see how it went, then eventually spread to the entire NAIA and, in time, every school in the nation," said Holthenrichs, who is now Hope 4 Hoopers vice president.
In addition to conducting camps and fundraising, Mace and Holthenrichs will make a trip to the Philippines in March where they plan to help repair basketball courts, sponsor a 5k run, offer basketball camps and clinics, and donate shoes to the young people there.
If you would like to help with the funding for this trip, you can donate by clicking here.
Through athletics, Hope 4Hoopers plans to inspire hope, instill discipline, raise confidence, fight prejudice and rally communities. Hope 4 Hoopers is changing the world, one athlete at a time.
"We have learned so much about the game of life through playing basketball. The skills that made us successful on the court transfer to the outside world, and we want to pass those along to others," Mace said.
If you're interested in making a difference and helping the Hope 4 Hoopers organization, or in getting your school or conference involved, you can donate or find information by going to their website at hope4hoopers.org, their Facebook page at Hope 4 Hoopers, or you can follow them on Twitter @Hope4Hoopers.
Amanda Hart is an NAIA Virtual Intern and a junior at Dakota Wesleyan University (S.D.)