OKLAHOMA CITY – July was a remarkably busy month for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA). Not only did we support partner youth programs, we ended the month honoring outstanding child advocates at our annual Heroes Ball.
The Oklahoma Youth Legislative Experience, held earlier in July, allowed 4-H and FFA members the opportunity to come to the Oklahoma State Capitol and learn the legislative process and how a bill becomes law. Oklahoma Farm Bureau and their president, Rodd Moesel, funded the program and OICA provided the technical support for the instruction.
OICA partnered with Hoops 4 Heroes (H4H), a Virginia-based nonprofit founded by Robert Goeas, a high school student with a passion for service and basketball alike. H4H is working to establish a program in every city with an NBA or WNBA professional basketball team to give children with incarcerated parents an opportunity to attend a basketball camp and participate in leadership development. The pilot program happened in 2019, and then activities were suspended due to the pandemic.
Last week, on Thursday through Saturday, 13 campers attended and went through the program. The attendees got instruction from personnel who direct summer camps by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The highlight for many was when members of the Oklahoma City Police and Fire Departments joined H4H to play a basketball game against each other with the campers divided up between the teams. In 2019, OKC Police were victorious; this year, OKC Fire evened the record at one win each.
Our thanks to programs that worked with OICA to secure the campers. We could not have done this without the help of the Oklahoma Messages Project and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The youth who participated were fantastic young people who enjoyed their time in this program, and I certainly want to encourage those reading this column to learn more about both of those outstanding organizations.
Additionally, we could not have done this camp without the support of Millwood Public Schools and their superintendent, Cecilia Robinson-Woods. Millwood not only rented the facilities for H4H due to ties with the program and a former camper attending Millwood, but they also helped with the overnight chaperone duties with volunteers from the school and they provided additional support for last-minute needs. We cannot thank them enough for helping pull off this amazing experience coming out of the break from the previous camp.
We also want to thank Robert and his father, Ed, who together created this wonderful experience. We are thankful that Oklahoma City could be the pilot program for this endeavor and wish them well as they spread this to other cities. I am certain that Hoops 4 Heroes will continue to expand and impact lives of young people across the nation.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the tremendous success with our simulcast Heroes Ball on Saturday, July 30. Attendees at both Oklahoma City and Tulsa venues had a wonderful time and the evening helped us recognize some true champions in child advocacy.
The winners of our People’s Choice Award were Amber Cuyler with Great Plains Child Care Resource and Referral for the individual award and Fostering Connections wan organization award. Congratulations to them and to all the nominees for the work they do to improve the lives of children in Oklahoma!
About OICA: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy was established in 1983 by a group of citizens seeking to create a strong advocacy network that would provide a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities, or other situations that put their lives and future at risk. Our mission statement: “Creating awareness, taking action, and changing policy to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Oklahoma’s children.”