For IEA Hoop Shoot Director Jim Swisher and his brother Darrell, it’s the smiles on children’s’ faces and the thank-yous of parents that have kept them coming back for the past 14 years and counting to direct the annual event.
“Have you been hugged or seen that smile on a child’s face before and after a Shoot?” Jim said of what keeps him coming back year after year. “How about when a parent comes up to you and thanks you? Or when you sit back at the hotel and watch these young adults make new friends?”
Darrell is equally motivated by the smiles.
“The smiles are worth all the time it takes to put on a successful Shoot,” he said. “As we have often heard, it’s a labor of love.”
Darrell first started putting the Swisher family seal on the IEA Hoop Shoot, beginning with the 2004-05 event, when he took over the helm from Joe Beaudoin.
But it was actually 33 years ago that Darrell said he was bitten by the Hoop Shoot bug, making it still the biggest thrill in his decades-long involvement with the program. He wasn’t even an Elks member then when still another brother, Terry, got him involved.
‘I guess my biggest highlight is the day Terry asked me to help out at the local Shoot some 33 years ago,” Darrell said. “I wasn’t a member then but after seeing what the Elks do for our kids, I joined shortly after.”
Darrell directed the IEA Hoop Shoot two more years, in 2005-06 and 2006-07, before he began scaling the IEA hierarchy to become president in 2008-09.
Still another Swisher brother – Bob – took over the program in 2007-08 and served for five years through 2011-12. IEA officers, at the urging of 2011-12 IEA President Kevin Kennedy, picked Jim to succeed Bob the following year, in 2012-13.
Jim said he hopes to remain in the post until the IEA officers replace him or “until the Good Lord says it’s time.” (Jim has already been tapped by IEA First Vice President Tom Deien to be Hoop Shoot director in 2018-19.)
But to Jim, “It’s not really who’s in charge. It’s the great Elks members who have a big part in the program.”
Jim says directing the Hoop Shoot continues to be fun, thanks to the enthusiastic support of family.
“It’s really not hard to get family involved,” Jim said, pointing to his son Chris and Chris’s wife Nakayla, who have been helping the last eight years taking photos and rebounding during the competition.
“ I think they enjoy it; they keep coming back. Bobby’s grandkids have helped out for as long as long as I can remember. Chelsy, our sister’s daughter, has made tie-dyed shirts we have used in our program.”
More help remains in the Swisher pipeline. Jim’s son Chris and Chris’ wife Nakayla have two toddlers.
“Maybe we will get them hooked,” Jim reckoned.
Family involvement, indeed, has been the key to the Swishers’ longevity in running the IEA Hoop Shoot.
“We all have our jobs to do to help out, and after so many years it goes down pretty nice,” Darrell said. “Over the years, I feel it’s done with the contestants in mind. We try to make them feel important and to show how proud of them we are.”
Fourteen years of administering the IEA Hoop Shoot have produced more ups than downs, Darrell said, including watching three Illinois shooters become national champions.
“I recall a parent coming to me and thanking us for getting their son out of his bashfulness,” Darrell said, remembering the tradition at one event of Hoop Shooters
collecting signatures of IEA officers and Elks members to see who can collect the most.
“She couldn’t believe the difference in him” as her son was drawn out of his shell to ask people for signatures, Darrell said.
Jim, too, is more prone to remember the highlights over the lowlights. His only lowlight, he says, centers on his wish for more kids to enjoy Hoop Shoot.
The highlight that resonates most with Jim is of a family facing some tough time as their daughter approached competing in the Iowa City Regional Hoop Shoot.
“Mom came up to me and thanked us for bringing their family closer together,” Jim said. “They have not been on a vacation since they had their children.
“She said it meant a lot to her because it’s been a long time that she has seen the smiles on their faces.”