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Alumni-Led 847 Hoops Provides Free Camps To Chicago Area Youth

How much do you think a week-long boys basketball summer camp in the Chicago area costs? Two hundred dollars? Three hundred dollars? Four hundred dollars? If you guessed in that range, you are right, which is the reason why what a group of Claremont McKenna College alumni are doing is so remarkable.

In the summer of 2011, Aron Khurana ’09 co-founded a free, week-long basketball camp called 847 Hoops for at-risk seventh and eighth grade boys in Waukegan, Ill., just north of Chicago. Fellow CMC alumni Jordan Nottke ’10, Andy Doyle ’09 and Tejas Gala ’09 have also assisted with the camp. Both Nottke and Doyle were members of the Stag football team while Gala and Khurana played basketball for the Stags.

847 Hoops serves a larger purpose than just basketball. Not only does the camp provide youth in lower income areas an exceptional level of coaching at no cost, the campers also get dinner at the end of each day and a visit from a variety of motivational speakers ranging from local professional and college athletes to doctors and lawyers. For at least a week each summer, anywhere from 50 to 100 campers are off the streets and out of reach of the youth gangs and violence that plagues the area. The most recent gang-related shooting in Waukegan happened on April 30 and similar incidents frequent the local news.

“Chicago is really affected by youth gangs and youth violence. Sports summer camps and after school activities are a great way to keep kids off the streets and out of gangs and camps also help youth with their confidence and positive thinking,” Khurana said. “We wanted to promote positive values in young people and also bridge the income gap in terms of basketball skills and coaching that was provided to the youth in the area.”

The idea to start a free basketball camp for youngsters of all income brackets came to Khurana when he worked at a firm in New York City that promoted volunteering. He began to think about how he could volunteer his time in areas that he was passionate about.

“Some of the volunteer opportunities (in New York) were projects that didn’t appeal to me but I did enjoy volunteering. So, I thought to myself, ‘what could I do that I would be passionate about, good at, I would enjoy doing, and that my friends would enjoy doing with me?” Khurana said. “What brought me back to running a basketball camp were all the positive things that I have learned in my life on the court, like discipline. A lot of the motivation I have gotten and a lot of the positive role models that I have come across have come from sports, particularly basketball.”

One positive role model for Khurana growing up was his high school basketball coach, Darren Barndt. When Khurana came up with the idea to start 847 Hoops, Barndt was the first call he made. Both Khurana and Barndt believed that there were talented up-and-coming basketball players in the 847 area code of Waukegan, but many of those players lacked quality coaching because of the high costs associated with top-level area camps.

“Kids from lower-income areas were not getting the kind of coaching and training that some of the other kids were (receiving) in the fundamentals of the game,” Khurana said.

After some fundraising, the two co-founders, along with a large group of volunteers, ran their first camp of 50 campers in Waukegan in the summer of 2011. In 2012, 847 Hoops expanded with a second site in Humboldt Park, a high-risk area on the West Side of Chicago. The latter camp was established in part thanks to a chance encounter between Khurana and CMC alumni Carlos Rivas ’12 at a CMC alumni event. Rivas runs a youth organization in Humboldt Park, so he inquired about 847 Hoops. The two decided to add the Humboldt camp in 2012. With these two camps, the reach of 847 Hoops ballooned to 108 campers.

The goal in the future, according to Khurana, is for the number of campers to continue to grow. A possible third site is on the radar for this summer with the first camp set to start at the end of July. Khurana is in the process of getting 847 Hoops 501c3 certified as a nationally recognized non-profit organization. As 847 Hoops continues to grow, he is working to create a sustainable camp model that other cities can follow.

For information on the camp and how to support 847 Hoops, visit 847hoops.com.