High school basketball season is opening soon and hundreds of Iowa athletes are taking part in a program that combines hoops and community service. Jack Lashier, executive director of the Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines, says the Pride Challenge is a chance for high school athletes to play a scrimmage match against a team they don’t usually play while also giving back to their communities.

“One component of it is that if those schools became involved, they would have to do a public service project within their community,” Lashier says. “It could be any sort of public service, a canned food drive, helping a family in the community that needed help, a fire victim or a cancer victim.”

The Pride Challenge program is in its third year in Iowa and he says it’s seen exponential growth. “We started out with about 40 schools the first year, we had 80 schools last year and we’ll have about 135 schools participating this year,” Lashier says. “It’s a win-win situation.

The kids get to play an opponent they don’t generally play and the community benefits from the public service the kids do.” There’s a $250 fee for each scrimmage game and the money is put into a fund at the Iowa Hall of Pride that finances the Pride Academy, a statewide outreach program.

“We go out to schools and talk about leadership and how these kids can be the best leaders and students in their school, and help school spirit and community pride,” he says. The Pride Challenge continues through December 22. Learn more at: www.iowahallofpride.com

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City