The goal of shooting a basketball is to put a ball through the net. The goal of Imagine No Malaria is to provide nets to keep mosquitos from getting through. St. Andrews UMC in Toms River achieves each of those goals each year with its Hoop-A-Thon.
The one-night event, which is April 27 this year, is a fun way for the church and community to be together and also help prevent malaria, a mosquito born disease that kills one child every two minutes in the sub-Saharan Africa. One key resource to preventing malaria is providing nets for people to sleep in so they won’t be bitten by the malaria-carrying mosquitos at night.
“We are having fun and making an impact on the world,” St. Andrews Missions Coordinator Lucy DeBarge said. “The exciting thing is that this is also raising awareness in kids and it’s neat that a 5- or 6-year old is excited to be a part of the solution.”
The Hoop-A-Thon, which is two days after World Malaria Day this year, isn’t simply an event where people come in and shoot a basketball to raise money and then go home. There are games for children of all ages, such as a Little Tykes basketball set, which is one of the 14 stations related to mosquitoes and Imagine No Malaria. Children also receive a Tic Tac Mosquito card where they check off a box after completing each station and then get a small prize at the end of the night.
“It’s a real fun way to make some money and get them all involved,” DeBarge said.
There is also a bake sale for those who can’t participate in the games to help raise money and a concession stand with hot dogs and chicken nuggets for families to have a light dinner before or during the games.
“It is a very, very fun night,” DeBarge said. “We open up at 5 and start the games at 5:30. We get the entire church community involved.”
In 2015, the Hoop-A-Thon raised more than $2,100. DeBarge said the money is taken and donated during Greater New Jersey’s Annual Conference session to Imagine No Malaria as part of GNJ’s Mission Fund.
The Mission Fund is a multi-year $12 million campaign that was approved by Greater New Jersey at the 2013 Annual Conference. The goal includes raising $2 million for Imagine No Malaria. Through the end of 2015, GNJ was 48 percent of the way to the goal.
Holding events like the Hoop-A-Thon coordinated with World Malaria Day on April 25th is a great way to raise funds and awareness of the how this disease can be prevented.
Debarge says while children and adults enjoy the night, they also understand the importance of what they are doing.
“Last year I had one little boy ask how much money we made,” DeBarge said. “I told him around $2,000 and he said, ‘that’s a lot of nets.’ “
That amount led to the purchase of 200 nets as the cost of one net is about $10. DeBarge said the church learns about the importance of Imagine No Malaria by watching the movie “Mary and Martha” on the Friday night before the Hoop-A-Thon, which takes place on a Wednesday each year.
“It’s a very powerful film that explores the whole issue of malaria,” DeBarge said. “It gets people more educated.”
There are more resources for World Malaria Day at imaginenomalaria.org/resources or donate to the the GNJ Mission Fund for Imagine No Malaria at www.gnjumc.org/the-mission-fund-campaign