Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My First Hoop Shoot: A Weekend of Fun, Festivities, and Free Throws


by Hannah Jones
Donor Services Assistant
Along with many of the finalists and their families, this year’s Hoop Shoot was my very first Hoop Shoot, and, frankly, I had no clue what to expect.

In the months and weeks leading up to the event, I helped with the preparation in a variety of small ways, while others played a much bigger role in the planning and execution of the weekend. I helped choose the bucket list items, stuffed Hoop Shoot badges for attendees, and even helped with preparations for the volunteer dinner. From badges to bucket list items, I didn’t yet understand how it would all come together and what my own Hoop Shoot experience would be like.
Kate (Left) and Hannah (Right)

My first real Hoop Shoot role came on Thursday, as an airport greeter. On that morning I found myself sitting on the train, heading to O’Hare instead of in my car pulling into the Elks Veterans Memorial parking lot. I sidled up to the Airport Express counter in the Terminal One baggage claim and waited expectantly.

Finally, the Hoop Shoot finalists and their families began arriving. Every single family, without exception, arrived with wide grins of excitement and nerves. Many had never been to Chicago and were eager to seek advice on the best sites and bites of the city. Although I myself have only been living in Chicago for ten months, it reinvigorated my love of Chicago to share my new city with all these enthusiastic visitors. Several families came in matching Hoop Shoot gear celebrating their finalist, and I was positively taken aback by the visible love and fervent support flowing through each Hoop Shoot family.

As the families arrived and were just as quickly whisked downtown via shuttle, the fluorescent lights of Terminal One, my poor shoe choice, and the constant whir of the baggage carousel could not diminish the sense of anticipation that hung in the air for events of the weekend ahead.

On Friday, I put on my blue Hoop Shoot polo and headed in the opposite direction towards the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza. For the next couple of hours, I helped with the trolleys that were driving in loops, offering attendees the opportunity to see some Chicago highlights, including the magnificent Elks Veterans Memorial and Headquarters. Because my position in Donor Services includes a lot of phone and email communication with Elks all over the country, I loved getting to talk to Elks face-to-face for the first time ever.

Next, I headed to Water Tower Place, where the much-anticipated Fun Fest would take place at the Chicago Sports Museum. Despite being a Chicago resident, I had never been inside the Chicago Sports Museum. Before the event officially started, I had a blast walking through the museum, playing the games, and seeing the sports memorabilia. Then, I took up my position on the ground floor of the building to direct attendees up the express elevator to the seventh floor.

Much like my experience at the airport, it was a thrill to be in the position of welcoming Hoop Shoot attendees. I loved recognizing some of the families from the airport who were now a full day into their Chicago adventure. The excitement was infectious, and I left Water Tower Place even more excited about the events of the ensuing day.


Welcoming visitors to Chicago and meeting both Elks and Hoop Shoot families was a fantastic experience. Seeing the children who had worked so hard to make it to the National Finals in Chicago, along with the families who had supported them for months on end was truly inspiring. While I planned on attending the competition on Saturday, I actually ended up getting engaged that day instead, and my now-fiancĂ© had some secret plans for my Saturday that did not include Hoop Shoot.  Needless to say, it was a very special weekend in the city of Chicago for many reasons. Just as I’m sure some of the competitors are already back on the court practicing those free throws, I am similarly already looking forward with eagerness to the 2018 Hoop Shoot! 

The Elks have been developing gritty kids through the Hoop Shoot program for more than 40 years. In 2016-17, the Elks National Foundation allocated $952,760 to fund the program. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit elks.org/hoopshoot.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My First Shot at the #HoopShoot

by Blaire Shaffer
Communications Assistant


My feet pounded the sidewalk as I thought about the fresh day before me. For those of you who don’t know me, my dog, Bruno (Border Collie and German Shepherd Mix), and I go for runs in the morning before work. Besides being a terrific way to wear off his 19-month-old puppy energy, I use this time to reset and focus on a new day I have been blessed with. 

Today, I felt excited and a little nervous. It was the kick-off day for an event the ENF has been tirelessly tolling on for months. I heard stories from my fellow staff members describing the Hoop Shoot National Finals, but there is something to be said about actually experiencing it for yourself. For the National Finals, I was put in charge of managing the Social Media for the weekend. In fact, many of you probably saw me, carrying the iPad pro and using it to take pictures or videos. 


From the first moment I walked into the Holiday Inn, aka the Hoop Shoot Headquarters, I was overwhelmed with a contagious feeling of excitement. From the National Finalists to the Hoop Shoot Volunteers, the thrill of being in Chicago for the Finals was huge. For me personally, one of the most incredible moments from the Hoop Shoot National Finals happened on the first day.



On Thursday evening, it was time for Hoop Shoot Assists—an opportunity for Finalists and their families to serve the Chicago community. This year, Finalists and their families packed bags for Chicago veterans in need. The bags have been donated to V.A. centers in Chicago. National Finalists and their families wrapped around the Kids’ Zone in what somewhat resembled a giant conga line. After waiting their turn, they stepped up to the table grabbed a bag and worked their way down the long assembly line, stuffing items into the bags as they went. In less than 30 minutes, they stuffed 250 bags to help Chicago Veterans in need.  It was an astonishing moment to behold!   

On Friday, I spent the day floating to each event and documenting what happened on the ENF’s Social Media accounts. I started my day at the Elks Veterans Memorial, traveled on the trolleys, and spent time in the Kids’ Zone. That afternoon, I helped with preparations for the finals. In the evening, I was chauffeured by bus to the Chicago Sports Museum for the Finalist Fest. I spent the night sharing fun moments on Social Media.

Saturday was the big day! I began my morning, by helping with final preparations in the AV station. I sorted through scripts and assisted in checking the PowerPoint. For the rest of the contest, I was lucky enough to watch from a perch above the arena. I recorded the Facebook Live Videos of Jim O’Kelley and Bart Powell (son of the Program’s first National Director). discussing the contest as it played out. I also ran to the AV Station before and after contest to assist with music. If forced to choose a couple of my favorite moments from the contest, I would say watching Kale Misegades shoot with his shattered kneecap and the seven intense shoot-offs! 

As I climbed into my Lyft ride home, I couldn’t get over how quickly the #HoopShoot National Finals weekend flew by. I sat in the car, digesting the contest. There were so many inspiring displays of grit, determination and sportsmanship.  The Finalists’ hard work and positive attitudes were incredibly inspiring to me. I can’t wait to see what the next Hoop Shoot National Finals will bring! 



The Elks have been developing gritty kids through the Hoop Shoot program for more than 40 years. In 2016-17, the Elks National Foundation allocated $952,760 to fund the program. For videos, news from the court, and more information about the Hoop Shoot, visit, elks.org/hoopshoot.