Hoops for Hope is a Slam Dunk for Rural Women's Health

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , December 30, 2009

Soon, celebrity players, including Jackie Stiles, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women's basketball who grew up in a nearby small town, agreed to participate. So did star players from college teams in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa. Fox Television kicked in, and advertisers paid for travel. About 138 sponsor names are listed on the Web site. There were about $30,000 in-kind contributions for uniforms, game basketballs, and many other material or advertising donations, and $40,000 in cash. A Jumbotron was brought in so people who couldn't buy tickets could watch the game in the Ashland High School football field. The Kansas State and University of Kansas cheerleaders volunteered too.

Writing about the event in Sports Illustrated Nov. 2, columnist Joe Posnanski described the tremendous spirit as like that depicted in the movie It's A Wonderful Life.

One amazing lesson, Anderson says, was the discovery that five communities that might compete and fight—especially because of the economic downturn that has taken so many businesses and jobs and sometimes pitted communities against each other—"dropped their walls, locked arms, and found a way to work together."

Tickets were sold for $30 and the 1,000 seats in the Ashland gymnasium were sold out in just a few hours, Anderson says.

Next year, he adds, the coordinating committee will market more aggressively outside their communities to sell more tickets and bring in more resources. And there will be an effort to televise the game nationally, perhaps to sell more tickets to people from out of town who come to watch.

"We had people coming from North Dakota; Austin, TX; Springfield, MO; Colorado; and Kansas City," Anderson says.

And of course one of the best outcomes from the entire experience is a new appreciation among women in these communities of the importance of prevention screening.

What lessons learned would he like to share with other hospital officials who might like to duplicate the effort? One of the most important, he says, is something administrators like him should understand: "The best ideas don't come from administration. They come from people like a dishwasher in our kitchen, Joe LaBelle."

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