The transformation in my attitude from landing in Boston to the end of the Shooting Touch Gala weekend was great, and it all happened so quickly.
I entered the Shooting Touch Gala weekend feeling like Bambi, and left it feeling more confident, inspired, and ready to take on what will be a great year in Rwanda. I have to thank the Shooting Touch staff, its board members, the past fellows, and of course Lindsey and Justin for giving me and Jazz great and valuable advice. Most of all though the bond between everyone was special. Initially it was difficult for me to describe that special bond correctly. It was just easy to tell that everyone involved has a deep passion for helping others, a love for the game, and really believe that basketball can be used to educate and inspire young people.
It felt like mere minutes after dropping my bags off at the hotel I was having dinner with Lisanne, Leah, Patrick, and board member Amadou Fall who is the head of NBA Africa. Internally I was freaking out, and I think I walked into three trash cans on the walk to dinner. The walk to the restaurant was only across the street! Of course Amadou a dynamic and influential person, which made me nervous, but that wasn’t all. I was also making my first impressions to my future bosses Lisanne and Patrick. To top that off I look up to Leah, and Lisanne because as past Fellows they are absolute heroes in my eyes. I spent the first portion of the dinner just trying to slow my heart rate down. However, after a few minutes I got over it, and realized all I could do was just be myself. It’s so obviously cliche, but that’s what I had to say to myself over the course of the weekend anytime those nerves struck. After calming down everything got much better, and we had conversations about the NBA Africa game in South Africa, but other things like how much Amadou’s daughter loves Frozen.
As the weekend rolled on I got to meet the other fellows. I roomed with Kevin and Casey who are both great guys, and the bromance between them is very real. I also got to meet Remy who I know is a legend in Kayonza. He was so excited for my upcoming year in Rwanda, and told me to take full advantage of it. All the past fellows were jealous that Jazz and I are about to go spend a year in Rwanda. It definitely was reassuring to see how much love they have for the Rwandese people.
On Friday night we had a nice intimate dinner with the Shooting Touch Board of Directors. It was more of the same I could feel those nerves creeping up, but by the end of the night everything was grand. All of the past Fellows gave speeches about the impact they were able to make during their year, but also how much the year abroad impacted them. It was emotional hearing their stories, and made me so excited to meet the kids!
I had some great conversations throughout the night whether it be with past fellows about what life is like in Rwinkwavu, or talking basketball with Jackie MacMullan.
On Saturday we had our orientation with Patrick who clearly described our role as Fellows and how it has changed as the organization has grown. This Fellowship will have me wearing a ton of different hats from coach, teacher, statistician, event planner, and much more. It will be a lot of responsibility to undertake, but I feel ready for the challenge, and happy to have an opportunity to do many different things. The biggest thing is to just keep raising the bar set by the past Fellows. This is not a challenge I take lightly, it will be hard following in their footsteps because they all did amazing things, but I am ready to bring my best every day.
After the orientation we had the Gala later in the day, which was phenomenal. It was MC’d by Fran Fraschilla and Lenny Clarke who were hilarious during the live auction portion. The prizes were unreal, like a flight to OKC to meet Sam Presti and see a Thunder game, or shooting lessons with Kelly Olynick. It was great to see how generous both the board of directors, and the donors were all night. In the end it was the most successful Shooting Touch Gala thus far.
It was a weekend filled of highlights that I will never forget. However of all the great moments that happened all weekend, one moment stuck out the most. I was taking a taxi back with most of the past fellows, and they each played their favorite Rwandan music. We were dancing in the taxi with Lisanne right by my side as she will be all year, and in that moment I felt completely ready for what is ahead of me. Kevin was on the other side and he told me the most important words for the year ahead. “Turi Kumwe” which means we are together. That is exactly what I felt in that moment. Turi Kumwe. Welcome to the family.
Thanks for reading.