Hoops for Hope inspires teens to #CrushKidCancer
Local program benefits pediatric cancer patients and is spreading nationally with the help of legendary basketball announcer, Dick Vitale
More than 1,600 high school students participated in the ever-growing Hoops for Hope basketball tournament last month – raising $60,000 for the Children’s Mercy Oncology Family Support Fund. In this tournament, skill doesn’t matter. It’s about teams dressing up in costumes, having fun, helping others, and raising awareness and funds for families fighting cancer.
“In a nutshell, Hoops for Hope is all about kids helping kids. That’s powerful stuff! Essentially this event is training teenagers to be the next generation of philanthropists. They are realizing they don’t have to wait until they are adults to make a difference. They can give back right now – while having a blast doing so – and have a positive impact in the lives of children who have been dealt a tough hand,” said Dr. Chris Jenson, Hoops for Hope Executive Officer and the Anatomy and Physiology teacher at Blue Valley Southwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas.
Secret to success
Hoops for Hope started in 2011 at Blue Valley Southwest High School, with Jenson as the sponsor, and quickly took off. This year, all five Blue Valley high schools and Shawnee Mission South took part. Jenson thinks the program has grown quickly thanks to:
- Inclusion – All types of students unite to play in the tournament, which can be tricky in high school. The varsity basketball players volunteer to be the referees which helps level the playing field.
- Entertainment – Teams dress in costumes, which keeps the atmosphere light and fun. Plus, prizes are awarded for best costumes.
- Service – If given an opportunity, teenagers can get behind a cause and get outside their “bubble.”
Now Hoops for Hope is an official 501c3 non-profit organization led by students, who organize event advertising, corporate sponsors and more. Check out this inspiring music video students created featuring Children’s Mercy staff and patients. The organization has an advisory board composed of teachers and parents. All money raised at the high school tournament goes to Children’s Mercy.
Leading up to this year's event, home-grown celebrities Paul Rudd and David Koechner - who have long supported the Children's Mercy Cancer Center by hosting Big Slick with Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis and Eric Stonestreet - got in the game by having some fun on social media. Click these links to see the hilariously heartfelt videos from Paul and David.
"In a nutshell, Hoops for Hope is all about kids helping kids. That’s powerful stuff! Essentially this event is training teenagers to be the next generation of philanthropists. They are realizing they don’t have to wait until they are adults to make a difference.”
Dick Vitale jumps on board
The program also includes a college division that partners with legendary basketball sportscaster Dick Vitale and The V Foundation. Any college can follow the Hoops for Hope model and host a basketball tournament. Funds raised at the college level support national cancer research.
“As some of our students graduated, they wanted to start chapters at their colleges,” Jenson said. “We were fortunate to form a relationship with Dick Vitale, and our college division was born. It’s exciting how passionate these young people are about continuing to help children with cancer. I think we’ll see these students lead a life of giving back. Who knows what the future holds for them or those they will impact down the road.”