GREAT FALLS— Following his basketball camp last week, Great Falls CMR grad and former Stanford and NBA player Josh Huestis is giving back again but this time he is serving the kids of the community that have landed in the foster system.
The foundation has partnered with L.O.V.E (Linking Our Voices Everyday) and Scheels to sponsor a shopping spree for 20 foster children. The money comes from a raffle Huestis held during the last day of his basketball camp and a generous donation of $2,000 from Scheels.
“When they go to school, they want to fit in with all the other kids,” said L.O.V.E. executive director Kat Whitish. “They want to have a brand new hoodie or brand new sneakers. They don’t want to just be wearing everybody else’s hand-me-downs. They need to feel loved like everybody else, they need to feel included like everybody else, and they need to feel like they belong.”
Huestis is no stranger to giving back to his community. The Great Falls native always knew that if he made it to a level where he could be put in a position to give back, he would do exactly that. He’s recently hosted the inaugural Montana Elite Invitational to give the top high school athletes more college exposure, he’s hosted a youth camp in Great Falls, and has another youth camp coming up in Bozeman.
“To me it’s because I wouldn’t be where I am without my community and without Great Falls and Montana as a whole,” said Huestis. “I think that where you come from is a defining factor in who you become as a human being and Great Falls turned me into who I am. I never want to be somebody who forgets where I came from.”
The kids were able to pick out anything they wanted or needed it. Lots of the younger kids went straight to the toy section but made their way over to the clothes and shoes. Some of the older kids, like Kenai Peterson, headed for the sports equipment and got what they would need to give maximum effort when they go out and play. Peterson is entering his sophomore year in Conrad and has been playing varsity since the 8th grade.
“When I was younger and growing up, we didn’t always have all of it,” said Peterson. “Now that I’m living with my sister and having a little bit of a better life, I’ll be prepared this year and be ready thanks to Josh.”
The items purchased are extremely necessary and exciting to have, but the materialistic things play as a side affect in this situation. The bigger picture is painted by how all of this makes the kids feel.
“It makes me feel accepted because everybody kept turning me down,” said 6th grader Javon Dewey. “I was in foster care and people kept coming to get me but they turned me down. I finally found a mom that will keep me and then Josh actually wants me to do something with him.”
There is a countless number of ways to give back to the community, but working with the foster children hits a little closer to the heart for Josh.
“It just came from this idea that, myself being adopted, I obviously have a soft spot for children that have been adopted or are in the foster care system because that of course could’ve easily been me,” said Huestis. “I wanted to find a way to remind these kids that they are cared for and that there are people that look out for them and want to do nice things for them because I think a lot of times they are forgotten.”