Jason Wada, 18, spends his spring break sweating in the sun to put up a basketball hoop and paint lines on the asphalt at the Salvation Army's transitional living center near I-80 and Watt Avenue. For hours, he and his father, Felix, toil over a 52-page manual as they assemble the hoop. Residents, who once were homeless, curiously watch from afar.
Wada has played basketball since age 5, using a hoop his father set up for him at home. He has coached youngsters in the Asian community and played ball for McClatchy High School's team. For his senior project, he organized a "shoot-a-thon," raising $350 to buy the hoop and paint.
He gets the hoop up, hangs the net and smiles. "I would like to envision a dad teaching his little kid to play and all kids of all ages enjoying it together," he says. A father going to his apartment with his child calls out: "Thank you."
The "shoot-a-thon" was held at McClatchy High School on March 1st. Wada organized 20 friends to shoot 100 sponsored free throws. Those that made it in the basket were sponsored per shot that they made. "I wanted to focus on helping the less fortunate," Wada said about his senior project.
After raising the money Wada contacted The Salvation Army wanting to make a donation. Ava Simpson, who works in community relations and coordinates volunteers for the organization said that they had just been talking about wanting to put up a basketball hoop for the E. Claire Raley Transitional Living Center. It was a serendipitous meeting of need and effort. They all decided that putting a basketball hoop up was a perfect use of the money given how it was raised.
"It restores my faith in the next generation," said Simpson. "They experience how good it feels (to do community service) and that will stay with them."
The E. Claire Raley Transitional Living Center has 34 units available to house homeless families. They are referred here from shelters or substance abuse programs. Residents can stay here from six months to two years to get on their feet.
Lawrence Stringer, a resident toting his 2-year-old daughter looks forward to teaching her how to play basketball and getting the exercise himself. "It could be a bonding thing," he said, excitedly watching the hoop get assembled. "It's good that there are people in the world that are willing to take the time out of their day to help other people."
Do you know someone who should be profiled in the I Care column for their efforts to help others? Please email your suggestions to Autumn Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.