The WEPAC Alliance, a board composed of community members from Wilmore, Englewood, Protection, Ashland, Coldwater and Minneola, Kansas, will host their ninth-annual “Hoops For Hope” game in Minneola today.
The event gives women and girls from the communities the chance to play a basketball game alongside former WNBA players, as well as both former and current college basketball players.
Tickets for the event cost $25 dollars, which includes a shirt and a program, according to Kim Hazen, a member of the WEPAC board.
All proceeds from the event go toward preventative cancer-screenings for women in the communities. The goal each year is to raise $10,000 Hazen said, and she thinks this year that goal will be achieved. Events affiliated with Hoops for Hope include a cheerleading camp usually held by the team from a local college. This year, that team was Wichita State University’s.
There’s also a silent auction.
The idea for the event started small, Hazen said.
“Our goal was to have the mammogram bus come to our community,” Hazen said. “It does, it comes to Ashland and coldwater.”
The game was originally conceived as a small high school game, but Kansas State High School Activities Association rules limited the number of current high school players that could participate from any given school, so local alumni also play.
This year’s game includes Reshea Bristol, who played for the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting, and Nichole-Ohlde Johnson, who played for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx after playing at Kansas State University.
“It’s really amazing when you think about all the talent we’ve had on our little basketball court,” Hazen said.
The communities trade back-and-forth between where the game is hosted, with today’s being the first time it has been held in Minneola.
The effect of the game, however, goes beyond basketball.
“We’ve helped so many women,” Hazen said. “I had a woman in town, she passed away a couple of years ago, and she said to me ‘You can’t ever stop doing it, because if you save even one life per-year, you’re doing a great thing.’”
Participants sometimes pay for their own ticket. Occasionally, though, older members of the communities who are unable to make the trip to watch will write a check to the alliance and instruct them to use the money to sponsor someone playing in the game.
Many of the kids playing today are doing so having had their tickets paid for in this way, Hazen said.
Besides being used to support local women, much the money raised of it is used locally, Hazen said.
Some of the services have to be performed at hospitals outside the area, she said, but the two local hospitals are able to do many of the screenings and treatments necessary, meaning much of the money stays local too.
Those who aren’t able to attend the game can watch it online, where the game will be streamed by Kiowa County.
The game itself starts at 6 p.m. and takes place in the grade-school gym in Minneola, Kansas.