Interview with Steve Garrity, founder of Hoop.Camp

Interview with Steve Garrity, founder of Hoop.Camp

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 5:00am - 11:00pm

Steve Garrity, founder of Hoop.Camp

Credit: Acquired from hoopcamp.org

"We do not need more people standing on the sidelines clapping and being a fan, we need more people in the game getting their hands dirty and actually making a difference.”

Hello and welcome back to Move to Include's interview series! We have scoured the Internet for unique and diverse content creators with disabilities, ranging from YouTubers to artists to CEOs. In these interviews, we hope to allow the creators to share their stories and passions, helping our audience step into their shoes for one day.

Today, we are interviewing Steve Garrity, the founder of Hoop.Camp. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

What is Hoop.Camp? From their website: Created in 1994, Hoop.Camp was designed as an event for all adults and children with a wide range of special needs. In 1996, Hoop.Camp pioneered the “unified” concept inviting those of all ages without special needs to register and attend as a unified partner. This “unified” format is what makes Hoop.Camp the best experience your child will have at a sports camp.

Hoop.Camp caters to both special needs athletes and “unified” (those without special needs) athletes of all ages and abilities. Many of our special needs athletes have a wide range of developmental delays, such as intellectual impairment, autism, down syndrome, angelman syndrome, aspergers, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other cognitive delays. Many of our athletes and participants are on limited budgets and have limited access to sports activities. We offer our camp free of charge to those that need financial assistance or cannot afford to pay. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and are 100% volunteer-based. We have no paid staff.

​​Tell us about the camp! What does a typical day look like, if there is one?

All of our camps are unified camps. I pioneered the concept of unified sports almost 30 years ago, which is when those with and without special needs participate together in the same sporting events. We have multiple camps in multiple states. Though similar, each one has a unique aspect to it. We partner with mini college university athletic programs for hosting events. For example, some of the universities we partner with are Portland State University, Oregon State University, Idaho State University, Pepperdine, Montana State University, University of Alaska in Anchorage, University of Utah, University of Nevada Reno, and many others. We have worked hard to make our camp look like a typical sports camp. We play games, we give out lots of awards, we have contests and competitions. Each is modified so all individuals can improve and enjoy success. They are loud, they are competitive, and they are dynamic. They are always best when we have a high number of unified campers that participate as well.

What inspired you to create the camp?

Guilt and gratitude. At an early age, I realized I was blessed to be born with not only a good family, but a healthy mind and body that allowed me to participate in sports at a high level. I saw the lack of opportunity for those with cognitive and mental impairments to participate in sports. So, I just started a foundation and started hosting a basketball camp for those with additional and extra needs.

What was it like to start this unique camp? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

Well, when I started the camp I was fairly young, in my early 20s, so I have no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t have any personal friends or family members that have special needs, so it was a learn-as-I-go process. We had many obstacles to overcome. For example, in our unified format, we had parents of special needs children who thought their children might get hurt playing with those without special needs. I had to convince some of them that their children were not made of crystal. … It’s something that I never went through personally because I never looked at Jimmy who has special needs as my special-needs friend… Jimmy was just my friend. We try to foster that type of attitude with our camps with everyone involved. Jimmy does not need another fan on the sidelines clapping for him, he needs a friend. This means a friend that talks to him on the phone every once in a while, go to a movie together, or just hangs out. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have social interactions with our clients on a peer-to-peer basis, either on social media or on the telephone. There were some barriers that need to be broken down with the capability and abilities of everyone. All of these challenges for me just come naturally. 

Financing our events are always a challenge. Many of our athletes are on very limited incomes. They live off of a small stipend or Social Security payment. The annual cost of sponsoring an athlete is only $100 per year. However, our goal is to reach 10,000 athletes, which means we have to raise $1 million. So, getting the word out about that is a challenge. Once people know our story it makes it easy. 

One of the other challenges we have, which is perhaps the best thing about us and the worst thing about us, is that we are all volunteers. We have no paid staff, so we just do the very best we can and it all seems to work out fine. Finding people that have the same passion that I do is sometimes difficult. Sometimes, I get impatient with people because they don’t have the same passion and energy that I have. Getting good volunteers is also a welcoming challenge. I have a group of friends of mine that are great people, but I call them my “someday” friends because for years and years they say, “Someday, I will come.” But they just have not caught the vision yet. … There are some of my old basketball buddies I’ve been calling for years. And they still have not stepped up… perhaps they will someday. With that said, over the years we have developed a dedicated group of volunteers that we are very thankful for and grateful to have part of our organization.

Thank you so much for reading, and thank Steve for sharing his time and energy! Follow Hoop.Camp on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you know any other content creators with disabilities you would love to see interviewed, email your suggestions to ktutino@wxxi.org.

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