Everyday Hero: Hoop Camp founder Steve Garrity teaches basketball and much more

Coach Steve Garrity with a camp-goer at Hoop Camp. (Hoop Camp)

Today’s Everyday Hero runs a basketball camp for special needs children and adults. Steve Garrity started the camp two decades ago, combining his love of basketball with a need to give back.

To call Hoop Camp inclusive doesn't quite measure the commitment coach Steve Garrity has to running the three-day camp, scheduled to get under way August 17 at Tualatin Hills Athletic Center.

“When I started the camp I always thought, 'Why me? I was born the way I was born and someone else was born the way they were born,” Garrity said. “So I just felt an obligation that I needed to do something.”

Garrity was able to retire relatively young and he wanted to give back. Basketball was his passion. Why not combine basketball with serving what he calls an under-served community of those with down syndrome, autism and other special needs?

He got so much more in return.

“At first I started thinking I was doing something nice for some disadvantaged people, but I realized right away that it's like casting your bread upon the water,” he said “I've gained a lot more than I received. It started that these were kind of my special needs friends, kind of I started as a project, but now they're just my friends.”

Garrity takes a unified approach to the camp, inviting volunteers and participants without special needs to attend. It's all about knowing about and counting your blessings. It doesn't take long for young people at the camp to get the message.

“Their parents tell me that they complain a lot less the weeks after camp because they gain appreciation for the blessing that they have that they don't even realize that they have,” he said. “Once they get involved they get hooked it's like a drug, but it's a good drug.”

The non-profit camp charges a nominal fee to camp participants who can afford it or no fee at all to those who cannot.

There are awards, prize giveaways and plenty of hands-on basketball drills and games. Past visitors to the camp include former blazer stars Kevin Duckworth and Jerome Kersey. Orlando Magic player and Portland native Terrence Ross is scheduled to come this year

“It's always nice to have some special visitors that come,”Garrity said “There's just a big need for this..it's an under-served population.

Coach Garrity says for many of the kids and grownups who attend it's their first chance to participate in sports activities.

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