Our Stories

For the Love of the Game—and the Neighborhood

For 13 summers running, Hoops in the Hood has offered a safe, healthy and enriching outlet for Chicago children in nearly 20 historically under-invested neighborhoods. With support from LISC and State Farm, the program has had a tranformative impact on its participants, and their communities.

This story is adapted from an article by Mikaela Blackwell.

“Nothing can beat the love I have for this program,” said Raul Ruiz, who joined Hoops in the Hood at the age of 13, in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Five years later, he is coaching kids in the same league, organized by St. Michael the Archangel, a local Catholic church whose parish offers a range of social services. “There's not one summer I haven't been a part of the Hoops program since I joined. It saved me from a lot of mischief growing up and played a huge role in my development as an individual.”

For hundreds of youth across Chicago like Ruiz, Hoops in the Hood is more than a weekly basketball game leading up to the championship in August. It’s now a tradition and an opportunity to be part of something transformative.

Hoops in the Hood has served
26,000 young people

Launched by community leaders 13 years ago in response to high rates of violent crime in Chicago neighborhoods, Hoops was conceived to provide kids with a safe place to play basketball and engage in other organized activities with their peers and caring adults. LISC has been involved from the program's inception, with State Farm as the lead sponsor (State Farm also has provided school supplies for all of the program’s tournament participants—400 youth—for the past three years).

Hoops has served 26,000 young people thus far, and every summer, becomes more robust as new relationships are formed, victories are won and lifelong memories are created. “Hoops gave me a chance to play against people in my neighborhood at a place I knew I was safe,” said Laurence Goodman, who participates in the Hoops program in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood overseen by the ARK of St. Sabina. “It’s nice to have something productive to do over the summer. The tournament downtown is the best part. I can't wait for me and my homies to go back this year.”

For LISC Chicago executive director Meghan Harte, a veteran basketball player and coach herself, Hoops is “the most cost-effective youth engagement program anyone could run. This is truly a partnership and commitment to community organizations who are addressing youth engagement and violence prevention.”

This summer, the program will serve 5,000 youth in 17 Chicago neighborhoods. “Hoops in the Hood has opened doors for me,” says coach Ruiz. “I've met a lot of people through this program, and I've had so much fun along the way.” 

If you’d like to support the Hoops in the Hood program please click here. $25 supports a Chicago youth for the entire summer.