KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee men’s and women’s basketball teams took part in the annual Hoops for Hope event Saturday at Knoxville Christian School. The event, now in its 10th year, benefits the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee.
“This is something that we look forward to every year,” Lady Vols senior Mercedes Russell said. “I know the kids are excited, but we are probably just as excited as them for this event. It’s always fun to spend time with them and just enjoy the game of basketball.”
The Vols and Lady Vols interacted with participants for two hours, instructing hotshot stations and playing five-on-five games. Before each game, participants took the court through a tunnel of Tennessee athletes, receiving high fives and cheers. After the final game, student-athletes danced with the participants before signing autographs.
“The best part of this event would have to be the dancing,” Vols sophomore Lamonte Turner said. “Just dancing with the kids and being free and opening up to them and putting smiles on their faces is such a great experience.”
The event was organized as an Eagle Scout project by Tanner Sexton, a junior at Farragut High School. Now in its 10th year, Hoops for Hope has become quite the family tradition for the Sextons. The event was first founded by Trey Sexton, Tanner’s older brother, as his Eagle Scout project in 2008.
“It means a lot for this event to be in its 10th year. It started out just being a one-time thing, but the UT players and coaches said, ‘Hey, let’s do it again,'” Tanner Sexton said.
“I’ve been pretty involved in years past, helping out where I could. This started as my older brother’s project, but it’s really different this year being in charge of it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been fun.”