It was a hot summer August day, driving back from Branson, after spending a week down at Kids Across America camp. Three boys were in the car, two were sleeping off the activities of the week, while another was awake, aware. Driving offers such an opportunity to think and process and I could not help but wonder what had been done in these three boys’ lives down at KAA. Three of the seven boys we took rang the bell at camp, meaning they made a decision to follow Jesus. In a rebuke to myself, I should have been more joyous about these commitments, but I am a realist when it comes to these types of moments. There is a lot to overcome for us in the world to follow Jesus, and I knew these boys’ journeys would be no different.
*John was one of those kids, and he was awake in the car. I had been really depressed in the weeks up to camp and I was genuinely refreshed by my time down there, however I needed to be reminded of God’s love for me still. In these moments, I listen to sermons and this time decided to listen to one on John 3:16. Knowing John was up, I was secretly hoping he would listen as well. He was one of the kids who rang the bell, and the one kid I wanted to reach more than all the others. He is one of those rare souls in the world who demands your attention when he walks into a room. His attitude alone would make practices an enjoyable or miserable experience. He is an influencer, and we had to reach him.
My plan worked, as the sermon played, he would often finish the preacher’s words, and I was genuinely amazed he had picked up so much in such a short amount of time. I had a lot of hope after hearing this, and prayed for continuing growth in his life. The summer ended as usual, and it was filled with more heartbreak about stories of what our boys were getting into. John was not immune.
It was a brisk April morning when Michael and I met with a social worker with the Central Division for the Kansas City Police Department. It was a difficult start to this year, after a lot of planning, praying, and hoping for a good year, one practice not one kid from the year before showed up.
Right after practice, Michael decided to open the team to other kids around the city with some tryouts, and we quickly filled our positions. Unfortunately, the shock of the original kids leaving never left me or Michael. It was just so sudden. It was this morning with the social worker that we heard what was going on with some of them.
One of our boys was being watched carefully by the KCPD for some pretty violent activity, and she was concerned about where he was heading. It was a tough conversation because we only wanted to believe the best about our kids, however the reality was starker than I wanted to believe. We showed a picture of our old team and she went through each kid saying what they had been involved in, and John was mentioned.
I walked away from Panera that morning sad, angry, depressed, hollow, wondering out loud to God, if any of the time and effort and money was worth it. At the time, I could not handle the answer so I had to walk away for the summer. Honestly, I did not want to relearn about the new kids we had, just to have the cycle repeat itself again. I did not want to spend more time to just feel loss.
Brrrr, brrrr, brrrr, my cell phone rings on Thanksgiving this year. It’s Michael. “Hey Coach Chris, how is your Thanksgiving?” “It’s pretty good,” I said. “Guess who I saw yesterday? John.” “That’s great,” I responded, knowing John is sitting in jail, awaiting trial. “John has gotten big, he is like 6’2 and ripped. He told me all he does is push-ups, pull-ups and read his Bible.” “That is puberty for you, and I am glad he is keeping himself occupied,” I said.
Michael went on to talk about all the tattoos that covered his arms, no doubt each one filled with some sort of meaning about his life. “So, get this Coach Chris, I ask him about this one new tattoo and it nearly brought tear to my eye when he said it. John said it was 4HG, Coach.”
Hours later, this brought a tear to my eye too. 4HG. It means “For His Glory.” It was what we said after every huddle and the end of every practice, to remind them, as well as ourselves we were not doing this for us, but for Him.
This was the thing I needed to hear. Maybe, just maybe, we have made an impact. Maybe it is all worth it. Maybe, just maybe, God is working. We are resolved to find out.
- Chris Guhl, Coach/Mentor
We are so thankful for the dozens of friends and supporters who donated their time, shopped, and spread the word about our fireworks stand this year. We met and exceeded our goal this year! Thanks be to God!
We can't wait for next year! Check out what our crew had to say in the video below, see a photo gallery of some of our many customers, and watch the feature 41 Action News did on our stand as well.
We had such a great time at Kids Across America last week. We had the privilege of taking nine young men, age 10-17, to Kamp. It was the first camp experience for each of them. The highlight of the week was seeing five young men rededicate their lives to Christ and two young men make decisions to follow Christ for the first time.
We are excited about the ways God is moving in the lives of our kids! Listen to what they had to say about the week here:
We are privileged to get to work with many amazing young men and their families. One of our young men who's been walking with us for the past year and a half is Z. Our talented friend, Bobby Pitts of Worth It Films, spent time with executive director Michael Loney and Z a few weeks back to put together this short video chronicling Z's story and his time with Freedom Hoops.
Our third annual Freedom Hoops Vision Dinner was a great night for everyone involved. Here's what a few people had to say about the night:
- $82,138.58 raised through table sponsors, silent auction, fund-a-need, and 50/50 raffle funding 18 of our 24 players.
- $175/month committed monthly donors
- 3 prospective monthly donors
- 5+ people wanting to learn more how to coach, help, or partner together
We are truly humbled by the outpouring of support for our young men, their families, our coaches and volunteers. Thank you for making an impact in the lives of our young men! If you have questions, would like to get involved, or would like to give, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out photos and a recap video from the event below.
We had a great time last weekend in Dallas where we competed in Session 1 of the Powerade Platform circuit. Our 16U team competed hard in each game and ended with a 2-2 record, beating teams from Detroit and Tampa Bay and losing close games to teams from Minnesota and Oklahoma.
In addition to competing against teams from across the country, we were able to better ourselves as men in other areas as well. On Friday, we shadowed certified financial planner Earl Jefferson of 7th Harvest Investments in Dallas. He taught our young men about the responsibilities of his job and instilled some important life lessons in them as well. Our favorite takeaway was this: If you make your life easy now, it will be hard later. If you make your life hard now, life will be easy later. Thank you Earl for spending time with us!
On Saturday, we went to the North Texas Food Bank to spend a few hours serving. During our time we were able to pack 16 pallets of food, 768 boxes, 22,400 pounds of food, and 18,667 meals.
Finally, on Sunday we were able to learn from Coach Michael's former college coach, Coach DC (Deryl Cunningham). He encouraged our young men to work hard and take care of their responsibilities in the classroom.
Thank you to all of you who made this trip possible with your generosity! We are thankful for you and look forward to Indianapolis this weekend! Watch below to see what one of our young men had to say about his experience in Dallas this weekend:
High school basketball season is more than halfway finished, and while our teams have taken a break for a few months, we've been busy planning and preparing for the upcoming year. Over the last month, we've held meetings with our 16U and 11U coaching staffs to talk, pray, dream, and plan for the 2018 competitive seasons.
Our 11U team just kicked off a 4-week winter basketball league through the Kansas City Parks and Recreation department. Kids were excited to get back on the court and compete together.
Our 16U players have been busy with high school basketball, and our coaches have been traveling across the city to watch them play. We have young men playing for schools across the city - from Shawnee to Raytown, KCK to KCMO. They're representing themselves and Freedom Hoops well!
Mark your calendars for May 3, our third annual Freedom Hoops Vision Dinner. We are excited to welcome former KU great and NBA champion Wayne Simien as our keynote speaker this year. More details will come soon - you won't want to miss it.
We were greeted by Matt Fulks, the director of CYITML. He was our host for the night. Our first stop was a trip behind home plate for batting practice. We took some photos, took in the scenery, and then moved up to a suite with a beautiful view of the field. On our way to the suite, we stopped by the room where postgame press conferences are conducted and posed for a few pictures.
Once we arrived at the suite, we heard Mr. Darol Rodrock, founder of Rodrock Homes and the Rodrock Foundation, as he shared the story of his childhood and his passion for helping young people in crisis.
Next, General Manager Dayton Moore entered the room. He first walked through the room and shook hands and met each of our young men in attendance. He then asked questions of our young men about Freedom Hoops and the work our kids do in the community. He then spoke about his own journey to where he is now and opened the floor for questions from the kids.
We were then fed a delicious meal, and escorted to our seats in right field where we cheered on the Royals. It was a perfect day and a true once-in-a-lifetime experience for our young men.