Basketball has a way of connecting people on a global scale. The uniform rules and poetic simplicity of the game has a way of eliciting the same emotional reactions in kids all over, whether it's from the United States or a country such as Uganda.
Recently, a group of of girls basketball players from Colorado decided that they could use basketball as a means of connecting with those in countries less fortunate than America.
Spearheaded by Colorado Springs School assistant girls basketball coach Caleb Strickland, the Crossover for Change Foundation was established.
The mission is straightforward: "Fostering confidence, empowerment and leadership for young women in Uganda through the sport of basketball."
"Eric Richter - the father of Cameron Richter, one of the girls involved - has been going over and volunteering in hospitals and doing workshops in western Uganda for about seven years now," Strickland said. "Somebody gave him Dennis Katungye's number, the coach we partnered with over there."
Katungye told Richter there was a need for basketball work to be done through camps if he knew of any coaches that wanted to be involved. Richter did one better and went after players. Girls from the Colorado Springs School and a couple of other schools in the area jumped at the chance to provide online clinics to women's players in Uganda. His two daughters Paige and Cameron were among those to join and then other students quickly got involved.
"I was excited to jump at the chance," CSS junior Mia Chavez said. "We have a chance to have such a big impact on such a small group. I knew it was going to be great to be a part of the process."
The workload to develop the foundation increased in March and already the players have film and sent a collection of instructional videos to two schools that are participating in the program.
They're aiming to travel to Uganda next summer to run on-site camps.
"I thought it was a cool idea and a great cause to head to Africa and help young girls," CSS senior Sasha Malone said. "It's awesome to have young girls teach younger students."
The foundation is going well above and beyond teaching skills. It is working to fundraise in order to get participating schools outfitted with new equipment and uniforms as well as building some facilities.
There has already been $11,000 raised which has allowed excavation to begin on a basketball court for the Immaculate Heart Girls School.
When the court is completed, basketball will become an official sport at the school and the efforts here in Colorado will have had a heavy hand in that. As much as the game has helped Chavez, Malone, and other standout players such as recent Kodiak graduate Kate Griffin and her sister Anna (Coronado '20) as well as St. Mary's standout Josephine Howery, the Class 3A girls player of the year, they're all appreciative that they can use the game they love to enrich others' lives.
"Basketball, like any sport, isn't just a game where you get to play and have fun," Chavez said. "You can help someone build character and I think there are so many different ways that you can use basketball to improve different parts of your life."
These girls have learned that lesson first-hand while competing for their high school teams and they have no interest in slowing down when it comes to helping others in less fortunate situations feel the same benefits.