Monday, May 14, 2012

My First Hoop Shoot

In March 2012, Lindsay Saunders joined the Elks National Foundation as the Youth Programs Associate. As part of her job, Lindsay will manage the day-to-day operations of the Elks Hoop Shoot. This April, Lindsay traveled to Springfield, Mass., for the National Finals, where she saw her very first Hoop Shoot contest in action.

By Lindsay Saunders, Youth Programs Associate

Lindsay learns the intricacies
of Hoop Shoot registration.
“Elks LOVE the Hoop Shoot!” I was told this several times before ever witnessing a Hoop Shoot in person.  Sure, I read through materials, studied the rules, even watched couple of YouTube clips of local contests. Still, nothing quite prepared me for the tremendous event that is the National Hoop Shoot Finals.

I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in Springfield, Mass., and immediately began meeting Hoop Shoot volunteers who had been working tirelessly to prepare for what I was to witness in the next couple of days. For most Elks volunteers, this year’s Hoop Shoot was far from their first—some of them have been attending for more than 20 years! A few hours, several hugs, and a couple of custom Elks pins later, I already felt like a member of the Hoop Shoot family. I was overwhelmed by each Elk’s kindness, dedication, and passion for the program.

After a few of days of behind-the-scenes preparation (and lots and lots of note taking), it was time to meet the finalists and their families. Group by group, families arrived at the hotel to register for the contest. After being greeted by a red sea of smiling regional directors and checking into their rooms, families were ushered through the registration line. Many trickled into the family hospitality room where I was able to meet them and put some faces to the names I’d been seeing in news articles and emails for weeks.

It was during these discussions that I realized why Elks Hoop Shoot volunteers possess so much passion for what they do—it’s the families. Each expressed gratitude toward the Elks and pride in their sons’ and daughters’ accomplishments. For some, it was their first time flying on an airplane. Many had never been to the East Coast (myself included). My time in Springfield confirmed that, although contestants compete alone, Hoop Shoot is a family activity through and through.

 My last two days in Springfield were a blur. Busy trying to wrap my head around all that was happening, I continued to mingle with families, get to know Elks, and soak in as much information as possible. Finally, I witnessed my first Hoop Shoot contest. I have to admit, growing up a cheerleader and attending a Big Ten university didn’t quite prepare me for the Hoop Shoot finals. I quickly realized that the toughest part of my job might be keeping quiet during the contest—it was hard not to cheer!

By the end of my trip, I returned to Chicago with a wealth of new knowledge and a clearer understanding of how the Hoop Shoot works and what it’s really about—the kids who participate. I am excited to be a part of the program and, in case you’re wondering… I, too, LOVE the Hoop Shoot.

Through the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, the Elks National Foundation teaches kids the value of hard work and good sportsmanship. In 2012-13, the ENF allocated $748,055 to fund this program. For more information on the Hoop Shoot, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.

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