by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly
My last blog post was about my experience at my very first Hoop Shoot contest at my Lodge, Chicago North Shore, Ill, Lodge No. 1316. I had such an amazing experience at my Lodge contest that I decided to keep the ball rolling (pun intended) all the way down to the Illinois State Hoop Shoot Contest in Decatur, Illinois. Who knew I would have to leave Chicago in order to get back on the road to the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago.
The very first thing that I need to talk about when discussing my time in Decatur was the incredible team effort made by Illinois State Hoop Shoot Director Jim Swisher and the Illinois Elks Hoop Shoot volunteers. I was in great company. Illinois Elks Association representatives, Lodge and District Hoop Shoot Directors, ENF staff members, Lodge Secretaries, and Elks from all across Illinois brought their talents to Decatur. Together they put on a magnificent event for all of those involved.
From my very first encounter with Director Swisher and his volunteer “Dream Team”, I knew that I was in the big leagues. This contest was one to remember for the contestants and their families. It certainly was for me.
During registration, some kids were more outgoing than others. By the time the awards banquet started, you could see all of the friendships that had developed over the weekend. The contestants, their families and the Elk volunteers—old friendships from previous contestants had been rekindled and new ones had formed. It was a wonderful sight to see.
The contest may take place on one Saturday in February, but attending the Illinois State Hoop Shoot in Decatur really helped me remember that the Elks Hoop Shoot is more than just a day. It is an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships and that can last a lifetime. It is with this in mind that I leave Decatur and continue on the road to Chicago, both literally and figuratively. My next literal stop will be a gas station, my next figurative stop will be in Iowa City, Iowa for the North Central Region 3 Hoop Shoot on Saturday, March 19, 2016. I was live tweeting the Illinois State Contest in Decatur and will be tweeting throughout my trip to the regional contest Iowa City. If you would like to follow along on Twitter, my handle is @ElksBilly. If you’re attending a contest, remember to post about it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #hoopshoot.
Youth Programs Associate
The Elks have been developing gritty kids through the Hoop Shoot program for more than 40 years. In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation allocated $924,070 to fund the program. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot.