Donations Help Bridge Huskies And Haiti Hoops Project
June 18, 2012
By Seamus Labrum
SEATTLE - Around this time last year, Megan Osmer placed a donation box inside the Washington women's basketball locker room during senior cleanout. The team sent shoes and basketballs to Hoops for Haiti, a non-profit organization based in Illinois that donates items to the country.
"It's one of those things that is easy to do," said Osmer, the team's director of basketball operations. "[The players] need to clean their lockers out anyway; you might as well do something good with it."
The team's act of generosity did not go unrecognized. The organization's website, hoopsforhaiti.org, recently posted a picture of the Huskies' donations. With Osmer at the helm, the team plans to continue to work with the group as a way of improving the quality of youth basketball in Haiti.
According to the organization's website, 80 percent of Haitians live below the poverty line, with 54 percent living in what the western world to consider "abject poverty." For young Haitians, simple items like having shoes or basketballs to play the game are not affordable items.
Haiti holds a special place in Osmer's heart. She visited the country with a group led by friend and former men's assistant basketball coach at Lynn University (Fla.), Zach Walker. Osmer, a 2006 graduate of Lynn, jumped at the opportunity to go when contacted by Walker in May of last year.
Walker had a history of organizing numerous study abroad trips for students at the university. Osmer was interested in traveling to the devastated Caribbean nation, but as a busy student-athlete, never had the opportunity to make the winter trips.
Tragically, two professors and four students died on one of the charity trips during the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010. There is now a memorial on the campus of the Florida school set up in their honor.
Osmer was part of the first service group to return to Haiti and a group called Food for the Poor, another non-profit active in Haiti long before the earthquake.
Osmer termed the trip a "life-changing experience."
Now, Osmer hopes to share that type of experience with the Washington women's basketball team.
Osmer got the idea to have the team work with Hoops for Haiti from other schools, like the University of Kentucky. There, Coach John Calipari held a telethon with the men's basketball team to raise money for the survivors of the earthquake in 2010.
Through Hoops for Haiti, Osmer expects to get the Huskies involved in spreading the game of basketball abroad. The organization is active in promoting the sport and engages Haitians on various levels.
"They take basketball shoes and jerseys," Osmer said, "and they go over to Haiti and do basketball camps and build courts."
In addition, Osmer said college teams are able to assist the Hoops for Haiti project by playing in "white-out" games during the regular season, similar to the "Think Pink" games that help promote breast cancer awareness. Teams are provided with white t-shirts, complete with `Hoops for Haiti' written in their school colors. The players compete to raise awareness for the organization.
"This year, we want to do the game with them and do the white-out," Osmer said. "It is just a matter of organizing it."