Team effort is essential to Spokane Hoopfest. Led by Executive Director Matt Santangelo and the Hoopfest Board of Directors, the staff and operating committee work all year long to organize the event. Once spring rolls around, many volunteers begin to generously donate their time and efforts. Ultimately, over 3,000 people commit to lending a helping hand for Hoopfest weekend.
Keli Riley, the office administrator at Hoopfest, has overseen many of the volunteers since 2002. Over the past 14 years, Riley has been whittled and molded by each batch of volunteers, while likewise imparting her knowledge onto them. Riley took the time to sit down and discuss her memories with the volunteers over the years.
Q: What keeps you coming back to Hoopfest?
A: Definitely the people. I love the people I work with and I love the public too. It’s fun to meet new volunteers and get to know them better.
Q: What is your favorite part about Hoopfest?
A: That we give back to the community. Aside from Hoopfest weekend, we also organize Spokane AAU and Ignite Basketball Association (IBA). Both of these programs provide safe and constructive environments for kids to grow and develop their basketball skills. We have donated over $1.6 million to charitable organizations such as Special Olympics. We have also participated in the construction and renovation of outdoor courts. I just think it’s really great that we give back.
Q: What is it like working with so many volunteers?
A: What I like about volunteers is that they come because they want to be here. Each volunteer brings something different. Over the years I’ve learned to do things better. People come with a different set of skills or different knowledge. So that makes my job a lot more fun to be with them.
Q: Has there been a particular memory from volunteering that has stuck with you?
A: Last year we were rolling t-shirts and there was a group of developmentally disabled kids that came from one of the schools to help us out. Not only did they have a good time but they did a spectacular job. They showed me how much fun it could be just to roll a t-shirt.
Q: What is it like working with so many people that give their time to help out?
A: It is so fantastic. I have worked in other venues where I’ve been a volunteer or I’ve had to train other volunteers for different organizations and [Hoopfest] is by far the best. You can be a volunteer at any capacity. I think that’s why they come back every year. It’s so fun to see the same faces year in and year out. We have people that have not only played for 26 years but have come and volunteered for the past 26 years. That’s astounding to me. Everyone wants to be here and they love it and the atmosphere. They don’t even have to be a basketball player to enjoy it. I think that’s what’s so special about Hoopfest.
Q: How important is it to the organization to have volunteers?
A: They are so important. We wouldn’t have Hoopfest if we didn’t have our volunteers. We are only a staff of six, so if you could imagine a staff of six running the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament without any help and support it would be virtually impossible. We’re very fortunate that we have over 3,000 people help us every year.
If you think you’d be good at rolling t-shirts, putting scores on a master scoreboard, stuffing packets or being a court monitor, check out this link to volunteer your time for Hoopfest 2016.