Jake Peterson checks the ball, dribbles, hesitates and pulls up from beyond the 3-point line over Joel Sovereign.
The ball goes in. That’s game and another $5 for Kix for Kids, a fundraiser Peterson started to buy new shoes for kids who can’t afford them.
The motivation for the project came about two weeks ago when the Genesis Preparatory Academy senior point guard was at the McEuen Park basketball courts in Coeur d’Alene.
“I saw this little kid walking around and he had toe holes cut open in the front of his shoes because they were too small and he couldn’t afford new ones,” Peterson said.
Peterson said ideas started going through his head for how he could make a difference. He started a Facebook page for donations about a week ago and said he’d be at McEuen Park from 10 a.m. until at least 6 p.m. Saturday challenging people to one-on-one basketball. The loser has to pay $5 for the fundraiser.
He’d played 15 games by 2 p.m., winning 14, and his substitutes – teammates from his AAU team – played another three. He had already raised $222 in cash at the court and $715 on Facebook, meaning he was about $60 short of his $1,000 goal.
“I’m trying for as much as I can,” he said. “I’m gonna go until people stop showing up.”
It was a busy morning of friends and family stopping by to play, then strangers who heard about it on Facebook started showing up, he said. A television reporter even played a game in wingtip dress shoes.
“So I’m starting to meet some new people out here,” Peterson said.
Jake Robson, 27, of Coeur d’Alene, was playing tennis at the courts nearby when someone told him about the fundraiser at the basketball courts.
“I’m like, ‘Heck yeah.’ I’ve got 20 bucks in my wallet,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better to give it to.”
Ryan Zimmerman, 17, one of Peterson’s subs, bested him 7-4.
“I like the cause and I like shoes,” Robson said.
Sovereign, who hopes to walk on to Whitworth University’s basketball team as a freshman this fall, was Peterson’s teammate at Christian Center School two years ago. He saw the post on Instagram and thought it was a good cause he could get behind.
Laurie Peterson, Peterson’s mom, said she had no idea about the fundraiser until she saw it on Facebook. Then she started reaching out to local media to get some publicity.
“I am just so blessed to be his mom,” Peterson said. “He saw a need and took action.”
She said she talked to Peterson about postponing the game because his ankle is only about 60% healed from a surgery about two months ago, but he said kids would need new shoes before school started.
He had two ligaments and a tendon replaced after he landed on a teammate’s ankle during Hoopfest and has been pushing to recover as quickly as possible. He was walking on a boot a few days after his surgery and has only been back playing basketball for about two weeks.
He played with just a small brace on Saturday and didn’t appear to be slowed down too much as he drove to the basket, made spinning turnaround shots and pulled up for jumpers.
“I’ve always been a hard worker,” he said.
With all the money he collects, Peterson will take needy kids shopping so they can pick out a pair of shoes they like. He’s finding the kids through friends, family, local teachers and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Peterson is also collecting donated shoes that he can give to local charities. His family already dropped off four bags at the local Union Gospel Mission.
Once basketball practice starts, Peterson said he hopes to continue collecting shoes to donate to kids while his team aims for a third state championship.
After high school, he hopes to commit to a Division II basketball program. The top schools on his list are Barry (Florida) University, Anderson (Indiana) University and Brevard (North Carolina) College, but he has a clear dream school, too.
“That’s got to be Gonzaga,” he said.
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