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Hoop for Hope: Not your typical basketball day camp

The Hope for Hope campers and members of the Rams men's and women's basketball teams pose in the Moore Fitness Center. (Photo by Noah Allard)

June 12, 2024

By Bob Holmes

Just outside Columbia International University’s Moore Fitness Center, 16 energetic boys squirmed in their picnic table seats ready to go inside for some basketball. But first, they were challenged to love each other.  

“Some of y’all are bullies. Or some of y’all been bullied. We’re going to cancel that.”

Those were the words of Sinclair Salters, the founder of the Columbia-based ministry 4runners4christ, a partner with the CIU Rams basketball teams as the annual Hoop for Hope four-day summer basketball camp got underway.   

Salters was one of a number of volunteers who delivered devotionals on biblical love on the first day of camp that drew 85 boys and girls ages 9-14, many from lower income neighborhoods, which is where Salters focuses his ministry. He signs up a number of kids from these neighborhoods, and with CIU, coordinates a bus ride to campus for the campers    

Love is the theme

Drawing from 1Corinthians 13, Salters had each child in his devotional group shout out his name where the word “love” would normally be inserted: “(name) is patient,” “(name) is not jealous,” “(name) is not rude.”

“What I’m trying to get you to see is only the power of the love of God can give us the strength to live up to this definition called love,” Salter told the boys.

His ministry vision is to see effective, reproducing followers in the inner city.

“I believe that the next wave of the harvest will come from the most unlikely of places,” Salters said in an interview after delivering the devotional.  

Not your typical basketball day camp  

The man who organizes the camp each year is Rams Head Basketball Coach Tony Stockman who is upfront about why this is not your typical basketball day camp — it’s about glorifying Jesus Christ. He says each day has a new biblical theme. While Monday’s theme was love, the last day will be obedience.

“We have gallon zip lock bags and we’re going to put soap, deodorant and a toothbrush in them … and (the campers) are going to give it to the homeless or whoever might need it,” Stockman explained. “That’s showing obedience. If I have a relationship with God, what does that look like? I should be helping other people.”

Grace and repentance were other themes for the week.

The Role Models

Assisting Stockman are players from the men’s and women’s basketball teams including rising sophomore Johnny Whysong of Easley, South Carolina, who says the camp is “very uplifting” for him knowing that he is looked upon as a role model.  

“Of course, there are going to be kids who don’t want to hear the Word of God … but then there are some kids that do,” Whysong said. “They let you know. Kids are very open and honest about how they feel. That’s very encouraging. But kids who don’t want to hear it — it just makes you want to work harder. It’s an honor to be a role model.”

And Stockman says the bond between his players and the campers doesn’t end with Hoop for Hope. Many of the campers come from nearby Forest Heights Elementary School where the players mentor the students.  

“Our guys go to Forest Heights once each week and volunteer … they’ve got a relationship with these kids.”

A special thank you goes out to Richland County for their assistance in funding the camp through the Community Impact Grant. 

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