A former University of Alaska Anchorage basketball player is back in town to prove that the court is a place where everyone is welcome.

Hoop Camp, created by Steve Garrity, is a program that forms bonds between athletes with special needs and those without. Garrity founded the camp in 1994, following a short professional basketball career in Europe. Now in its 26th year of operation, Hoop Camp is making a return to Anchorage. 

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"The special needs world is very close to my heart," said Garrity when asked why he started Hoop Camp. "I've always asked myself, 'why was I born this way and why was someone else born another way?' and I just, I feel comfortable in this space… I love the space of basketball."

Hoop Camp is a nonprofit organization that is 100 percent volunteer based. The camp travels across the country and around the world.

"We travel around quite a bit," Garrity said. "We go to multiple cities. And we have athletes with all types of special needs… from the full spectrum of autism, down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, anyone that has cognitive or mental impairment... invited to join us."

While the camp is focused on providing a fun and enriching experience for those with special needs, Garrity encourages everyone to get involved.

"All are welcome," Garrity explained. "And that goes along with [the camp's] theme, is that we're unified. We're inclusive. And our unified partners are those that do not have special needs... and that's been a theme since the very beginning."

Hoop Camp has helped blaze trails and continues to help prospective basketball players hone their skills. It's a camp where everyone is a winner and participants are unified in their love for hoops.

Hoop Camp takes place March 30–31, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the O'Malley Sports Center in Anchorage. The cost is $50, but financial help is available for those in need. Visit Hoop.Camp for more information.

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