July 27, 2019 - August 1, 2019| $5,000
Krista Pirtle reports: Hola from Mexico! After safe travels to Cancun – yes, we’re suffering with a camp in the Caribbean – we met up with Diego, our host for the week. Within five minutes of meeting him, Diego brought up Mark Wible’s favorite word about Hoops trips – flexibility. Apparently Horacio Llamas, the first Mexican-born player to play in the NBA, is hosting his own basketball camp this week. And he took our gym in Cancun. Diego said he received the call of the change of plans on Friday. We’re all set up with an outdoor court at a secondary school in Cancun. We’ve been told that there is a waiting list for each camp as they’re expecting us to have 50 kids in each camp.
Remember how we mentioned flexibility? Well, when we got here we found out we wouldn’t be staying in the apartments like we thought. Instead, we are in a BEACH. FRONT. HOTEL. So when we’re not doing a camp, you know where we’ll be. We also met April and Jordan, who helped arrange this whole trip.
Once we got things settled at the hotel, we went to a restaurant down the street. We ate appetizers on the roof with Diego and his wife, Rose. After that, we made our way back to the hotel to air up basketballs for camp. Our hotel is not that far from the city square where the leaning lighthouse is. Don’t worry – there will be plenty of pictures of that as the week progresses.
While we don’t have any jet leg – we’re in the same time zone as back home – we’re all a bit tired from the travel day. But, we’re excited to get the camps started tomorrow!
It is beautiful down here. We all got a good look at the sunrise this morning over the ocean from our hotel balconies.
But it’s also hot. As in mucho, mucho caliente.
We’ve got to do water breaks for the kiddos and ourselves about every 15-30 minutes. It was nice during the first camp when some clouds came in and threatened to bring some rain along with them.
The first camp went well. We had a little over 40 kids. The kids loved Scott’s defensive drill. One of Jeff’s kids told him that the camp was awesome. Amanda’s kids were a little all over the place. When they broke out into their group to talk about the purpose for their lives, her boys kept yelling, “Ardilla!” Yup, they were watching the squirrels.
The kids get a kick out of the fact that we’re from Texas for some reason. One of my girls, when I told her, started laughing and slinging a pretend lasso over her head.
We have three hours between camps, and you better believe we spent most of that time in the pool. There’s lots of seaweed on the beach, so we can’t really get in the ocean. We wanted to jump in the pool with our hoops clothes on.
It’s about a 30 minute drive from Puerto Morelos to Cancun. Diego has a big van that fits everybody and all of our equipment. On our way to Cancun we found out that two of our translators that we were expecting to come help had to cancel.
That actually turned out to be just fine as less than 20 kids showed up to the afternoon camp. We think the NBA camp took some of the kids who had originally signed up for our camp.
But we absolutely loved that group. We broke up into three different teams with Krista taking the five littles, Scott and Cheyenne taking the middle group and Jeff and Amanda taking the oldest kids. They wanted to take a group picture once camp ended for the day and repeatedly asked us how many days camp would be because they loved it.
They definitely loved Scott’s defensive drill. He yells, “Defense!” The kids slap the floor, get into a defensive stance and dance around while they say, “Oooooooooh yeah.” They pretty much sound like the Kool-Aid man. As we loaded the van in the parking lot, some of the kids walked up to us and said, “Ooooooooooh yeah.” While that camp is small, I bet it’s our favorite.
We’re headed back to the hotel now. It’s only been one day of camp, and we are wiped out. But it’s been such a blast working with Diego and his family and the people here. We’re really looking forward to what the rest of the week holds.
About last night… Have we mentioned it’s hot down here? With a side of extra humidity?
So we get to the hotel after the first camp on Tuesday and find out that the hotel has no electricity. Little did we know at the time that meant the hotel had zero water as well. And it was that way when we returned from the second camp. By that time, we’ve all sweat through our Hoops clothes twice and are super hot.
With no lights, we almost ate supper in complete darkness out on the porch of the hotel. Thankfully, Amanda rigged her phone to a pole with the flashlight on so we could see what we were eating.
The only place with electricity in the near proximity of our hotel was the supermarket. We’re pretty sure that thing was running on generators. It also had water which was good. With Brazil and Argentina playing soccer on TV, that place was packed.
We stayed there as long as we could before coming back to the hotel. The electricity/AC/water finally came back around 1am.
During our team time this morning, we all emphasized that we didn’t want our exhaustion from trying to get some sleep the night before – Amanda and Coker each slept on their balconies while Scott went down to the pool to try and sleep there – to affect our camps in any way.
I really don’t think it did. We didn’t do stations at camp today, like where we teach them dribbling, shooting and things like that. Instead, we did contests and then did some fun team competitions. The kids loved that!
As we talked to the kids about the fact that we all have a part to play, it was fun to watch them make the connections between their positions they play on their basketball teams and the role there is in life for them.
In the second camp, I have the little nuggets as I like to call them. They’re all six to eight years old. When we talked about our part and plan for us, one of the youngest said one of my very favorite things – “You know, it’s like a TV series. We just see one episode, but there is the whole series from start to finish.” Atta boy, Pablo!
Another one of my kids in the afternoon is David. He’s originally from Colorado, so I’ve talked with him the most because he also speaks English. When I gave him our team’s yellow bracelet on Monday, he was so excited about the fact that he didn’t have to give the bracelet back, that he could keep it forever. Well, if you thought he was pumped about that, you should have seen his face when he found out would get to take a Hoops ball home with him at the end of camp.
This is the first Hoops for Hope trip to Mexico, and we can see why Mark chose to come to this location. First off, Diego and his family are awesome. You can just tell how much he cares for these kids and how hard he’s working to make an impact. Then there’s April and Jordan who, like Diego and Rose, love these kiddos so well.
It’s hard to explain just how great these people are. You can’t see how they interact with the kids – like how Rose patiently checks everyone in for camp every day, how April carries on such intentional conversations with these kids, how Jordan drives to help us with camp two and is a great communicator with the kids and then how proud Diego looks when he sees these kids play and how he instructs them.
Now, I can’t write this recap without mentioning how we spent our afternoon break. If you pitied us at all about the whole no electricity/AC/water situation, you’re about to take it all back.
We went snorkeling this afternoon. And it was absolutely fantastic! The second largest reef in the world is right off the coast here. We got in a boat that took us to two different spots where we snorkeled for 45 minutes each. It was breathtaking. We saw barracudas, rainbow fish and a few from Finding Nemo.
Overall, even with the challenges we had last night, today was such a blast!
Happy 4th of July! You better believe we changed up the clothes schedule so we could wear red and blue today. Today was so good, y’all.
Scott brought up a quote this morning – You’re one relationship away from changing your destiny. So we started our day thinking, “What if we are that relationship that changed things monumentally for these kids?”
Jeff has a group of young boys in the morning camp. They can be a little wild – as in climbing in the trees – during team time. Jeff was following up on the message that Coker gave, and his kids were asking about death and where you go after you die. After Jeff answered, his translator Carlos asked if he could share a story from his life.
Jeff said, “Absolutely!” Carlos started that he had been in the military and nearly died. The kids stopped fidgeting. He was in Iraq clearing homes one by one. He entered one home and immediately got stabbed in the side with a bayonet. While his fellow soldiers apprehended the enemy, he fell to the ground, bleeding significantly. The kids climbed down from the trees and gathered around Carlos. He described his arms tingling, his vision fading, and the light growing small. He said he clearly remembers thinking in his head about his family, and God. He prayed scripture he had learned as a child. He told the kids he hadn’t followed God in his life but in that moment it was God who was there. The kids were as quiet as they had been all week, leaning in on every word. Carlos told them he faded to black, and then woke up in the hospital. The kids took it in, and then all started asking questions at once. The silence was broken but their interest was loud! Jeff was amazed to then see Carlos lift his shirt and show them a scar on his side where the bayonet almost ended his life. As small group time came to a close, Jeff made a note to start tomorrow’s small group with a story about a similar scar.
My group also had good conversation. I’ve got the oldest girls in the morning. When we huddled up, we spent a good amount of time going over the difference between relationship and the institution that they’ve heard. Things started clicking for them, and they began to ask more questions.
Pablo, though, delivered once again. This time it was more of a one-liner than a deer thought. We were doing a layup drill where each team forms a line at half court and then goes to shoot a layup. Pablo missed his first attempt and then, when he got the rebound, turned around with his back to the basket and shot it backwards. The kid made it.
Afterwards he said, “I just wanted the people from the US to see my value.”
For the most part, we all had great conversations. Diego and Rose kept saying that they thought today went really well.
We knew we were strengthened today. Heat exhaustion is a real thing, and we’re starting to feel it with both of our camps outdoors in the sun with temperatures in the 90s along with a ton of humidity.
Now we need to finish strong with our last camps on Friday. We’ve all had such a great time here with each group of kiddos.
What an amazing week of camps!
With, like, 98 percent of these kids that we worked with playing on club teams, the basketball part of camps were awesome. Scott and Coker did a great job of making stations more difficult today, especially for the older kids, and they just ate that up.
As we expected, every kid loved Last Second Hero. Most of them, though, called it Superhero.
The heat was tough again today as it’s been all week. While the temperature hasn’t gotten above the mid-90s, the heat index keeps reaching into triple digits. My girls in the morning told me they were done with the heat and wanted to just sit in the shade and hang out for the morning camp.
The afternoon group had a lot more energy. Their energy is a bit more contained than some of the teams in the morning. Amanda and Jeff are rockstars for working with their teams of little boys who loved being in the trees.
Amanda’s team in the afternoon had a basketball game during camp, but as we rounded up for team time they all began to run in from the parking lot because they didn’t want to miss the last day of camp.
In the morning camp, it’s pretty much just the kids there. But in the afternoon, almost everyone’s parents stay and watch. When Coker does team time, most of them stand behind him and video the message on their phones. One mom told Scott that she sends that video out to a group text each day.
We stayed around for a while after that last camp as every camper wanted pictures with as many different coaches as they could get. They were so thankful that we came.
We have two club teams in that last camp – the Cachorros and the Dragones. The Cachorros presented us each with a certificate before their coach handed us a Hoops for Hope Cachorros jersey.
It was a little harder to say goodbye to our kids than most of us thought it would be.
Now we get to relax on Saturday! We are going to Xel-Ha, a natural water park with cenotes, zip lines, a jungle and so many different things.
I asked one of my girls, Olivia, what her favorite thing is at Xel-Ha. And the first thing out of her mouth was, “Chocolate cake.” Bless her heart, I love that girl.