By Josh Ward
It was hard to tell who had the most fun at this year’s Hoops for Hope.
The 10th annual event to benefit the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee took place at Knoxville Christian School on Saturday. The University of Tennessee men’s and women’s basketball teams were both there to lead the way – just as they’ve done the previous nine years.
Hoops for Hope, which was started by Trey Sexton in 2008, invites people of all ages with Down syndrome to come out and play basketball. It’s a chance to interact with all players from the Vols and Lady Vols basketball teams.
“The biggest thing is just they’re having fun and they’re laughing and they’re smiling and having a good time,” UT forward Admiral Schofield said. “That’s the big thing for us.”
Hoops for Hope focuses on fun, but there’s also the competition. With the UT players coaching, the event features full-court play as well as shooting contests. There was also the dance-off.
Tanner Sexton, Trey’s younger brother, helped organize this year’s event. Tanner Sexton said the event was supposed to be a one-time thing when it started in 2007. Instead, it’s turned into an annual event.
“Here we are 10 years later,” Vols guard Chris Darrington said. “It’s their 10-year anniversary. It speaks to (the Sexton) family’s hard work and the people at UT – the boys and girls basketball teams.”
All of UT’s basketball players should be commended – not just for their involvement, but their engagement with the participants from start to finish during the event. Hoops for Hope wouldn’t have become the success it has without the involvement of UT’s players.
“There’s no reason this shouldn’t be going on for another 20, 30, however many years,” UT forward Grant Williams said. “I’m fine coming back every year and I’m excited to go have some fun and just enjoy the game out here.”
Hoops for Hope provided a reminder that sports are supposed to be fun. That’s a good lesson for all of us.
If you’d like more information on the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee, check out the organization’s website: DSAGTN.org.