Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NBA Basketball Players and Hoops4Africa Launch AIDS Campaign

Basketball stars to travel to Kenya to encourage healthy living

By Emily Harter
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Hoops4Africa is sending professional basketball players to Kenya in 2005 to use the influence of American sports celebrities to deliver a vital message on AIDS prevention to African youth.

The Washington-based nongovernmental organization celebrated its partnership with professionals from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and Land O'Lakes, an American dairy company, at a fund-raising reception October 28 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

"Play Safe, Live Long. Drink Milk, Live Strong" is the message 13 men and women basketball stars will promote during their trip to Kenya in September 2005. Currently there are 26.2 million people affected with HIV in Africa, and last year 2.3 million people died from the disease, 470,000 of them children.

Hoops4Africa is the creation of Stephan Bekale, an immigrant from Gabon who played college basketball in the United States. He formed the organization after he lost both his parents to AIDS, enlisting support from more than 200 NBA and WNBA players along with several businesses in the Washington area.

During the trip to Kenya, Hoops4Africa and the team of American basketball players will visit primary and secondary schools to educate adolescents because "the highest incidence of AIDS is between the ages of 15 and 26," according to Kristin Penn, director of the Land O'Lakes International Development Division.

Land O'Lakes, a leading U.S. food and agricultural cooperative, has been involved in economic development for more than 20 years. It currently has projects in nine African countries in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), including a project to improve the dairy industry in Kenya.

"Land O'Lakes wants to contribute to ending hunger and alleviating poverty in a way that we know best: working with the food industries in African countries and forming unique partnerships with organizations like Hoops4Africa," Penn said.

To help Hoops4Africa achieve its goal of reaching 2 million Africans about HIV prevention and nutrition, Penn said, Land O'Lakes will organize basketball games and exhibitions at schools, which will attract large audiences. Local Kenyan basketball players will also participate in the exhibition games.

According to Penn, the visits of the NBA players will be publicized on radio and television, at sporting events, and through personal appearances. Major U.S. media will also cover the 2005 Kenya trip and air it on such shows as "Larry King Live," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and MTV programs.

"Around the world, and particularly in Africa, NBA basketball players are held in high regard," said Gregory Shepard of HomeWorks Remodeling Assurance, another Hoops4Africa sponsor. "We know that we are on the right track and that our approach is sound. It will have a significant impact."

Shepard pointed to a similar project that was carried out in China. Chinese NBA star Yao Ming was joined by Hall of Fame basketball star Magic Johnson, who was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1991, to talk about AIDS prevention in a public service announcement on Chinese television.

Land O'Lakes and Hoops4Africa are thinking long-term about spreading their vital messages about health and nutrition. The five-day trip the NBA players make to Kenya will be just a start.

"We are very interested in getting corporate Kenya and their professional teams to pick up where we leave off," said Penn, "and to dedicate themselves to reaching as many schools as possible over the year to spread these messages in the classroom. We are the catalysts."

Hoops4Africa plans to expand the program to other African countries, Shepard added. "We think the program is very useful," he said. "We may actually incorporate other sports such as cricket and soccer."

"Hometown Hoops: High School Basketball in Michigan" Opens March 8 at the Michigan Historical Museum

"Hometown Hoops: High School Basketball in Michigan" Opens March 8 at the Michigan Historical Museum

As basketball teams and fans prepare for the excitement of March Madness, the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing is preparing for a little basketball excitement of its own.

On Saturday, March 8, the museum unveils Hometown Hoops: High School Basketball in Michigan, a special exhibit that looks at the people who make high school basketball happen and what the sport means to them and their communities.

Join mid-Michigan radio sports host Dave “Mad Dog” DeMarco of WQTX (92.7 The Ticket), from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the exhibit gallery, for his insight into Michigan’s high school basketball heritage.

Basketball has undergone an evolution since its introduction in Michigan in the late 19th century. What started as a “girls’ sport” became dominated by boys—and now the sport is played and enjoyed by boys and girls at every age level.

“Over the years, more and more people became involved in presenting the game of basketball,” said Phillip C. Kwiatkowski, director of the Michigan Historical Museum. “Not just players, parents and coaches, but fans, ticket-takers, janitors and others.”

Hometown Hoops captures the sights and sounds of high school basketball. Visitors even have the chance to shoot a hoop as they tour the gallery. More than 50 schools are represented in artifacts ranging from basketballs, uniforms and trophies to fan signs and mascots. Among the artifacts are championship trophies representing over 100 years of championship high school basketball.

At Hometown Hoops, visitors will discover the answers to:

· How have the game and the players changed since basketball came to Michigan?

· What do Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former Michigan governor William Milliken have in common?

· To what lengths do fans go in showing their team pride?

The permanent exhibits at the Michigan Historical Museum present an overview of the state’s past, from pre-recorded history through 1975. The museum is the flagship of a system that includes twelve historic sites and museums throughout the state.

The Michigan Historical Museum is located inside the Michigan Library and Historical Center, 702 W. Kalamazoo St., two blocks west of the State Capitol in downtown Lansing. The main entrance and visitor parking are located north of Kalamazoo Street, just east of M. L. King Boulevard. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The museum is closed on official state holidays

The Michigan Historical Museum system is a division of the Michigan Historical Center, an agency of the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, whose mission is to enrich the quality of life for Michigan residents by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan's heritage and fostering cultural creativity. The department also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Library of Michigan, the Michigan Film Office and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.