Thursday, December 10, 2015

My First Hoop Shoot

by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly

I have been the Youth Programs Associate at the Elks National Foundation for over four months now. The last four months of my life have been dedicated to the Hoop Shoot. I get to talk about the Hoop Shoot all day. On the phone, in meetings, in passing small talk. I tell my friends and family about the Hoop Shoot and all of the exciting things that we are planning for the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago. The website that I visit most is not Facebook, ESPN or even my email, it is www.elks.org/hoopshoot. I drink my morning coffee out of my Hoop Shoot mug.

I thought that with all of this Hoop Shoot exposure, I was an expert. I thought I knew everything there was to know. But guess what—I was wrong. The only way to truly know what a Hoop Shoot is like, is to attend a contest.

I got my first taste of a real Hoop Shoot on a recent Saturday morning. My Lodge, Chicago Northshore, Ill., Lodge No. 1316, holds its Hoop Shoot contest in Chicago and I was able to attend. Saturday mornings aren’t exactly my thing. In fact, I was almost late to my very first Hoop Shoot. I dragged my feet up to the gymnasium door with groggy eyes, coffee in hand, but as soon as I opened the door—BAM! The electricity in the room made me more alert than the strongest cup of coffee ever could.

The gym was brightly lit and full of energy. A complete contrast to the grey, snowy streets of Chicago that Saturday morning. Parents sat around and chatted, children were playing on the court with large smiles. I found myself surrounded by familiar faces. Elks National Foundation coworkers, Headquarters staff and Elks I knew from the Lodge were in attendance. Talking with families, passing out doughnuts and assigning volunteer positions—there was much to be done.

Before I knew what was happening I was informed that I would be rebounding. I blinked and the contest started. I kept repeating to myself the rules and procedures that I knew from the pocket manual and volunteer instructions back at the office, but it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t in my office. I wasn’t on the phone talking with someone about a contest that was happening in a few weeks and a few hundred miles away. I was there. It was happening. I was incredibly nervous for that first contestant. For them, for their parents, for myself. Every corner of that gymnasium was filled with excitement, anticipation and hope. I just focused on my rebounding. Stand here. Don’t move. Shot’s up. Get the ball quickly. Pass to line judge. Return to spot. Repeat. Before I knew it I found myself in a groove and started enjoying myself. Before I knew it, they were announcing the winners. My first Hoop Shoot was over.

I was proud of the winners. They did a great job and they deserved it. I was also incredibly proud of all of the volunteers that were there. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They were truly making a difference for the children in this community.

After my Hoop Shoot experience, my office felt a little different. I got it. I understood a little more why the Hoop Shoot exists. Why we do what we do. Before I knew it, Brookfield, Ill., Lodge No. 1510 was having its Hoop Shoot contest and I was so excited to go. When I walked into that gym they couldn’t stop me from rebounding. I loved it. Lodge No. 1510 had an amazing Hoop Shoot. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I jumped right in and started rebounding.

My first two Hoop Shoot contests were incredible. I learned a lot—both on and off the court—and I can’t wait to attend the Illinois North District Hoop Shoot this winter!

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.  

Billy Donnelly
Youth Programs Associate

2 comments :

  1. Lynn Rutherford-SnowJanuary 4, 2016 at 6:02 PM

    Welcome aboard Billy! Look forward to seeing you in Chicago along with the rest of the ENF team!
    Lynn Rutherford-Snow, VIRGINIA State Hoop Shoot Director

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