Inside Dunham’s Sports, Michael Parker was walking the aisles. He needed basketball shoes. Now to find the right size or, as was the case that day, 12 pairs of shoes in the right size.
Parker is in his first season as an assistant coach with the LC Schmitt Elementary grade 5 and 6 basketball team. He noticed it right away. These boys needed shoes to play basketball. And what about shirts and warm-up bags?
“These children are disadvantaged children. These are children whose parents are struggling. Some do not even have parents. Some are brought up by guardians,” Parker said. “But here are these kids who desperately want to play basketball.”
How could he ask families to pay $ 60 for a pair of shoes, let alone an extra $ 25 for warm-up shirts and $ 15 for bags?
Parker met Schmitt’s manager Kaity Day, who agreed. “I really try not to ask my families for money,” she said.
The rule of the day at Schmitt is never to ask parents to pay for extras. Even running expenses are often covered by the school.
Almost 75% of Schmitt’s 740 students receive free and discounted meals, and many live in poor homes. Some come to school hungry. That’s why Day sends home snacks at the end of each day and on weekends.
Most years, Day works with local barbers to arrange free haircuts for any student who wants them before their first day of class. If a child can’t take a school trip because the $ 5 fee is too high, Schmitt covers them. And Schmitt is a school where sports photos are paid, no questions asked.
Those flashy youth basketball teams with matching tracksuits, shoes and bags, that was going to be a hindrance.
Until Parker had an idea.
“All I know is I have kids who need shoes,” he said. “Look, I’ll do it myself.”
Parker’s first thought was to contact people he knew to get sponsors. Parker, who played basketball and track at the cathedral, works in business development for Indiana Corrections.
He was sure he would have no trouble finding money from people he knew, but there was a problem. He didn’t have time.
We were approaching the end of October and the team’s first game was approaching. Parker turned to GoFundMe with a call for “A Little Help”.
“The inspiration for the name came from the moment you’re on the pitch and playing and the ball escapes and goes onto another pitch, what do you say? ” he said. “Hey, some help? “
The little help Parker needed was about $ 1,500 in a few days to get him to start shopping. He asked former and current players around the world, everyone who loved basketball, to participate.
“Our 5th and 6th grade Schmitt Rockets team are working hard to learn the great game of basketball,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Due to many challenges and factors beyond our control, we need a little help.”
Help arrived (as of Monday the fund had raised $ 1,325) and Parker found himself at Dunham’s Sports buying 12 pairs of shoes.
“He shows himself for our children”
Inside Schmitt’s gym on Friday these players tried on their new shoes, as well as quarter-zip warm-up shirts with their names on the back. Each received a bag to store their new items.
“It looked like it was Christmas morning,” Day said. “They were so excited to put on these shoes.”
The team played their fourth game on Saturday, the first in the new shoes, and won 25-18, bringing their record to 2-2.
“Coach Parker and I want them to look how they feel,” Day said. “I want them to train and play. There are tons of obstacles we face every day, but we never want money or socioeconomic status to be a barrier for students.”
Beyond helping outfit the team with their gear, Parker has been a great addition to the squad, Day said.
“Coach Parker is calm, patient and kind to the kids,” she said. “He shows up for our kids and teaches them a lot more than basketball.”
One of his rules for players: whenever they see a teammate in the lanes, ask them how their day is going. Whatever the answer, always answer with “it will be better”.
“Driving has improved. Behavior and attitudes are better,” Parker said. “They are trying harder.”
They are kids who want to train, who look forward to every minute. Who look forward to each match even more.
“Because basketball takes them away from chaos, from lack of funds or food,” he said. “It’s something that belongs to them and them alone. And they own it.”