GREAT FALLS — For three years, the Hoops For A Cause skills camp brought numerous men’s and women’s Frontier Conference basketball teams together to host a clinic for young athletes. But with COVID-19 guidelines, an in-person event wasn’t feasible, so organizers had to think outside the box.
“We had to be creative and I had done a virtual clinic a couple of months ago and it was really good,” said Montana State-Northern women’s coach Chris Mouat. “And I just thought let's use the Frontier coaches if they're willing. And at 12 for 12, they said yes. We've got such good coaches and players, everybody knows that, but we have great people and they all pretty much jumped on board immediately.”
So Mouat and the rest of the league’s coaches will offer a free virtual coaching clinic July 29-30. Each year, they pick a cause or family to support and they’re continuing that tradition despite the virtual setting. This year, they’re raising money for 5-year-old Finnley Grace Foster and her parents Pat Foster and Katie Whitmore.
“I've known (Mouat) for quite a while,” said Pat Foster, a longtime basketball official. “He just reached out to me and, and said, ‘Hey, I've been following your daughter from the get-go. We have this Hoops for a Cause camp and if there’s anything we can do, we’d like to help.' And it just touches you.”
Finnley has been through a medical gauntlet. After countless hospital stays, two bone marrow transplants and several setbacks over the past five years, Finnley and her parents have experienced more trauma than any family should have to go through.
After a period of marked improvement, Finnley recently endured another hospital stay in Seattle following several seizures and neurological symptoms that landed her in the ICU on June 27. She left 21 days later with another diagnosis and new medication.
“Knowing the family, they had just been back in the hospital again with some seizures and things like that. It was the right time and I just know it's a need for them,” Mouat said. “And if we can help in any way, we just want to do that. So, it's going to be a good thing, I think, for everybody. And I'm just looking forward to it.”
Finnley has been home for a few days now, and she’s improving steadily in familiar surroundings. Foster, Whitmore and their extended families are grateful for the continued support from friends and even complete strangers.
“It’s a very overwhelming feeling, and it leaves us speechless,” Whitmore said. “To know we've been doing this for five-plus years now and we still have that much love and support, thank you doesn’t seem like enough.”
Though Hoops for Cause will look different, the mission remains the same.
If you’d like to register for the Hoops for a Cause Clinic, email Chris Mouat at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page for more information. If you'd like to donate to the Hoops for a Cause GoFundMe, click here.