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'It's just fun to see God change lives': Kansas City-area ministry mentors inner city teens through basketball

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Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 19:15:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A local basketball ministry is creating disciples both on and off the court through physical activity and mentorship.

Executive Director of Freedom Hoops, Michael Loney, said he created the organization three years ago for inner city teens.

“Everything we do is to seek courageous disciples of Jesus," Loney said. "Guys who are manly wise, emotionally equipped, spiritually mature and vocationally confident." “All of our young men just love that elbow time right, that care? So our dream is to see our young men come alongside and become that next set of guys that see hope found in lives changed.”

Loney recalls kicking off the program with just six boys. What started out as a youth basketball program quickly turned into an official team.

While everyone on the team appreciates the game, Loney says the takeaways are so much more than that.

“The power of the game of basketball, like it just brings people together and we build those relationships," Loney said. "All of our volunteers and kids, it’s a big giant family. It’s just an honor to be a part of and we love it."

He hopes the program will continue to grow so that every player on the team can have a mentor in life. Loney says providing guidance and structure is key to success.

“Things like the firework tent where our kids get like ‘Hey, I was out in the heat all day long,’ ‘Hey we sold out,’ ‘Hey I helped these guys to the trunk and then they gave me a $20 tip.’ All that stuff builds success, you know?” Loney said.

With teen crimes on the rise in the Kansas City area, Loney and his team hope to be a safe place for kids to come to.

Through physical activity, fundraising and weekly discipleships, he hopes his players find a respite from the challenges in their lives.

“That stuff is real. It’s real for our kids and it’s sad. (This affects) Kids' friends, kids’ neighbors” Loney said. “Giving our kids, like, an outlet, like, something to have fun in ways to forget about what’s going on is huge right?”

Tristan Hampton is one of his players. He says Freedom Hoops provided him with a healthy outlet to outsource his emotions.

“When I was first introduced to freedom hoops, I was going through a hard time,” Hampton said. “I would probably be in a bad situation, in trouble with the law or something like that.”

Hampton has found family here since, and also found himself along the way.

“I feel like they really care about you around here… We all grow, I gotta get better with it.”