Thursday, March 19, 2015

Forget the Beaver State, Oregon is the Elk State: Part 2

 by Youth Programs Associate Colleen Muszynski

When your boss asks in the middle of yet another brutal Chicago winter if you’d be interested in traveling to Oregon, the only acceptable answer is YES, YES, A MILLION TIMES YES! It didn’t take much convincing to get me on a plane to Portland. I was ecstatic to be on my way to visit the Coos Bay Lodge No. 1160 Impact Grant project and the Northwest Region 1 Hoop Shoot contest. You’ve already heard from my co-worker Mary Morgan about the front end of our trip to the Northwest, so I’ll pick up where she left off. 
Elks (animals) looking good!

The Elks (people) in Coos Bay recommended we check out the elks (animals) in Reedsport on our drive back to Portland. Living in a city like Chicago, where the wildest animal I’ve ever seen is a stray cat, I was skeptical that we’d even get a chance to see any real live elks. Sure enough, not even a half-hour into our drive, Mary and I pulled off Highway 38 to see about a dozen huge elks just hanging out by the side of the road. Definitely the coolest animal sighting of the trip!

Four hours and one rush-hour traffic jam after our elks encounter, we made it to the Shiloh Inn to start our Hoop Shoot adventure. We just missed the party for the families and volunteers, but we were able to catch up with Regional Director Keith Mills and his stellar team of Hoop Shoot volunteers and supporters. 

Bright and early the next morning, Mary and I joined 24 anxious Hoop Shoot contestants and their families for breakfast before the big contest. With Keith and Amy Mills, we made our way to Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, only about five minutes away from the hotel.

Elks scholars make awesome volunteers!


The gym was already buzzing with activity. Though we made it to the contest well before the contestants and their families, local volunteers had already set up the gym and gotten everything ready. Soon after we arrived, Mary and I met up with two local Elks scholar volunteers, Nakaia Macomber-Millman and Hannes Zetzsche. Nakaia, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark University, and Hannes, a junior at the University of Portland, jumped right in with welcoming guests to the contest and handing out programs as soon as the first bus pulled up. They were fantastic!

The four of us climbed onto the bleachers a short time later to watch all of the action. Keith had us sit with the contestants and act as chaperones, which allowed us to take in the contest. With only four contestants in each division, and both girls and boys shooting at the same time, the contest ran at a fast clip. I’ve had the opportunity to watch quite a few Hoop Shoot contests in my tenure here at the Foundation, and I am always amazed at the level of focus and tenacity Hoop Shoot contestants possess on the court. The contest in Portland was no exception—the competition was fierce, the winners gracious, and the action non-stop until the last free throw.
Fans on the edges of their seat during the contest.

The most exciting part of being at a Regional contest for me is getting the chance to know six of our National Finalists and their families before we all arrive in Springfield. After the trophies were passed out at the hotel at lunch, I had the chance to talk with the families traveling to National Finals, which made coordinating trips once I got back to the office that much easier. 

Our time in Portland was capped off with a dinner at Vancouver, Wash., Lodge No. 832. Our table with Mills’ was by far the most vocal and most fun table in the room. It was a great culmination of a fantastic trip to the Northwest full of enthusiastic and generous Elks, talented Hoop Shoot contestants, beautiful scenery and perfect weather. I’m surprised I got myself on the plane back to Chicago. Soon enough, I’ll be getting myself on another plane—this one to Springfield for the National Finals, and another thrilling Hoop Shoot adventure!

Through the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program, the Elks National Foundation offers youth the opportunity to engage in healthy competition, connect with their families and community, and succeed both on and off the court. In 2015-16, the ENF allocated $924,070 to fund this program, which includes the exciting addition of a Hoop Shoot app for contestants. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.
 

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