STORY BY ELLEN KOESTER
Last Thursday evening, Drake University hosted Halloween Hoops, an event put on for kids from the surrounding neighborhood.
Co-sponsored by the NAACP Des Moines Branch and the Student Bar Association, the event took over the Bell Center courts for two chaotic hours.
Kids played pick-up games of basketball scattered across different courts. Little Tike hoops for the younger kids were set up in the middle. Drake undergraduate students volunteered to paint faces.
Available foods included pizza and cookies, juice and water, and the popular carnival classic, cotton candy. Every child received a take away bag filled with donated treats including candy, Drake goodies and crayons from Head Start.
“Last year about 150 to 175 kids came,” said David Walker, a Drake law professor and lead organizer of the event. “This year I’d say it was between 125-150. When you throw a party for the university, you never know how many people will show up.”
The event served as more than simply a fun place for kids to play for a couple hours. The NAACP chapter of Des Moines, Drake Athletics and the Head Start organization all had tables there to speak with the parents and kids who attended.
Although the event focused on serving the kids in the community, the event does a lot for the university as well.
“The Drake community reaches pretty far. It’s important for the university to engage with the community, and this is an opportunity to do so. Kids ages 3 to 11 come onto the campus, a prestigious and beautiful private university,” Walker said. They meet people like the students and faculty and others. They begin to see themselves at a college or university and begin to build some affection for and identification with Drake.”
Emily Rouse, a Public Service Scholar and Drake student, helped organize and volunteer at the event.
This year was her second year of volunteering.
“It went really well,” Rouse said. “I love the event every year. It’s a really great opportunity for the kids to come and have some fun and get to see Drake as a school that they could possibly see themselves going to in the future.”
Rouse said she has enjoyed volunteering at Halloween Hoops in the past. Although the night requires a lot of effort and planning, it is always worth getting connected with the community.
“I’m a Public Service Scholar, so it’s one of our events that we put on, but even if I wasn’t, I would still volunteer at the event and help,” Rouse said. “I love kids and I think it’s just such a great opportunity for Drake to become more involved in the neighboring community, especially Drake Law
School because we aren’t out in the community as much as the other schools might be.”
That is ultimately what the night is about-fostering connections between Drake and the surrounding community.
“It’s about being a good citizen and not being an island with walls around it,” Walker said. “Part of the fun is just providing an event for kids that their parents and organizations like the NAACP also really enjoy, but it’s also a joyful event that serves the community and serves Drake. It’s fun and it’s nice to break down walls.”
Halloween Hoops has become an annual event and Drake has hosted it for the past 20 years. Hopefully Drake will continue to break down walls through this event for many years to come.