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Vermont Quarterly

Nothing But Net

Lyndsey Kittredge

DEPARTMENTS/
ALUMNI PROFILES

Nothing but Net

By Jon Reidel G'06 

The idea that building a basketball court in the middle of a small village in Rwanda would change the lives of the young people living there seems as audacious today as it did five years when Lindsey Kittredge ’99 proposed it.

 As co-founder of Shooting Touch, Inc., a global organization that uses basketball to educate and empower youth and transform the communities in which they live, Kittredge had seen the positive effects her non-profit had on youth in her native Boston. But expanding to an impoverished area of East Africa, where 68 percent of children trade school for a life of hard labor by age thirteen, presented a much different set of challenges.

“When we sent our first Shooting Touch Fellow abroad we told him that his only mission was to build a basketball court and partner with local organizations to impact communities, and to come back a better human—that was it,” says Kittredge, who co-founded Shooting Touch with her husband, Justin, a former basketball product director at Reebok. “Looking back, it sounds crazy, but our Fellow came back a changed man and we could tell by the impacts on the young people that this was pretty viable.”

The following year, Shooting Touch sent a Fellow to Zimbabwe, where she built another court and worked with a program to help HIV and AIDS orphans. These experiences led to the creation of Shooting Touch's Basketball Health Corps (BHC), often referred to as the basketball Peace Corps. Graduating college seniors are awarded $25,000 and have worked in in Rwanda, Brazil, Cape Verde, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Senegal.

“Lindsey doesn't really know what she and Justin and the whole staff at Shooting Touch are doing for the kids here,” says Lisanne Comeau, a former BHC Fellow and now Rwandan In-Country Program Director. “It's amazing. The sense of unity and joy these kids get, their passion, their determination, and the growth of the league is amazing. These kids are certainly healthier and happier because of her work.”

Last year, Shooting Touch, now an international NGO, saw a 56 percent increase in Malaria prevention knowledge among its participants in Rwanda, among other positive health outcomes. The bulk of that knowledge was disseminated on the five basketball courts built in Rwanda since 2007. The country is currently the organization’s international headquarters.

“The government of Rwanda has a hard time bringing kids together, so when you create a community space like a basketball court and a league that they are energized about, they become more receptive to this type of health education,” says Kittredge.

Back home in Boston, Shooting Touch has continued to give out more than 350 scholarships to summer basketball camps, offer clinics, and host annual sports conferences to help young adults enter the sports industry. In the spring of 2015, the organization launched G3 Boston: Getting Girls in the Game, in partnership with local schools to promote positive self-image, healthy nutritional habits, leadership, and community engagement among middle school girls.

“When you see the community ripple effect in Rwanda, you go back and try and figure out how to create a similar ripple in Dorchester, Mattapan, Chinatown or Roxbury,” says Kittredge, who relies on about a dozen UVM alumni who support Shooting Touch, including her brother Rob Cronin ’94.

Kittredge’s efforts have drawn the attention and support of NBA players and coaches, as well as other basketball royalty. Legendary St. Anthony High School coach Bob Hurley, Sr., runs a camp for Kittredge; Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff is donating some of the proceeds from his new book, The Audacity of Hoop, to Shooting Touch; and pioneering female sportswriter and former ESPN analyst Jackie MacMullan narrates a video about Shooting Touch. Both she and Hurley are active board members for the organization.  

“Lindsey has an incredible heart for people, especially young people,” says ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla, who is a board member and also emcees Shooting Touch’s annual fundraising gala. “The job she has done with the Shooting Touch Foundation and how she has affected lives in Boston and in Rwanda is amazing. Those children consider her an angel.”

“If I’m able to create something from nothing and have that something be a positive change in someone else’s life, then I can’t ask for anything more,” says Kittredge. “When I look back, I really do believe that none of this would be happening without my experience at UVM and the pathways that have led me to this creation. There’s something about what UVM teaches to its students about the outside world and giving back to it that’s pretty amazing.” 

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