By Genevieve Kotz
Peter Kazickas of Amagansett is the shooting guard on Hamilton College’s varsity basketball team. He was recently named to the All-State NABC Good Works Team for his volunteer work with Hoops 4 Hope, a nonprofit organization that supports youth development in South Africa and Zimbabwe through mentorship and basketball. His family will host the Hoops 4 Hope benefit on Sunday, August 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit HoopsAfrica.com.
How did you get involved with Hoops 4 Hope?
Mark Crandell is the founder, and he went to Amagansett Elementary School, which is where I went, and the first time I ever heard about it was from him. My older sister, Annalina, volunteered with them in South Africa. When I was in my senior year in high school, I e-mailed him and asked if I could help out and if I could volunteer.
Can you explain how the organization works? What do you like best about Hoops 4 Hope?
In Zimbabwe and South Africa, they have a few paid coaches, but mostly volunteers. At all the local schools just outside the city, it is a five days a week program, two hours a day. Local coaches will bring anywhere from 50 to a couple hundred kids together to play. There are only a few basketballs, so a lot of it is singing and dancing. You get there and play basketball with them, teach them drills, and make them break into different groups and talk to the kids about HIV/AIDS awareness, avoiding drugs, and going to school. The great part is that a lot of the kids that grow up through the program then become coaches themselves because they want to give back and give the younger kids the same experience they had.
Can you talk about your experience in Zimbabwe?
I’ve been twice and both times were for five weeks. Each day I would go to a different community and we would bring out all the school children in that community and just play for a couple hours and talk. I also was able to raise money over here to be able to repair the courts, because the courts were very damaged—potholes all over the place, cracks, and the rims were falling off. We bought gravel stones, the kids around the courts dug up sand, the little guys wheel barrowed water and we mixed all the cement with all the kids from the community, laid it down, filled in the potholes, resurfaced the court. That was great because that was a real hands-on effort. Everyone in the community was watching or helping out.
How do they use basketball to empower kids?
Basketball is really just the tool. It’s about empowering them, making them feel confident. The goal is to get as many kids to be great citizens in their community and give back. These coaches are so invested in the children, they just naturally start to feel more confident and empowered. The Hoops 4 Hope mantra is providing hope for the hopeless and its so evident if you just spend an hour in Zimbabwe watching the coaches interact with the kids, watching the kids play and sing and dance and have fun. It’s just really invaluable work that they do.
How long have you been playing basketball?
I probably started when I was 3 or 4 and I have one year left playing at Hamilton College in upstate New York. I didn’t realize how valuable it was. I totally took it for granted. It’s just amazing how much basketball is able to shape these kids lives.
Can you tell us about the upcoming fundraiser?
It’s going to be at my family’s house this summer. There’s a silent auction; that’s how we raise most of the money. There will be some guys from Zimbabwe, playing some local music. There should be a lot of local Zimbabwe bracelets that the children made that were sent here for the fundraiser, a lot of art. The kids make these great sculptures out of Coke cans and soda cans. It’s a great event, really beautiful, a nice crowd, and a happy time.