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Thursday, March 23, 2017

We Need More Stories Like This! Can You Do YOUR Part?

Meet Basketball Cop.

GoFundMe Heroes celebrates the everyday

 people who do extraordinary things on

GoFundMe.

“The call came from outside my normal patrol zone.

I took it because we were really busy, and I sensed an opportunity. 
A lot of kids are nervous around cops because of what they’ve seen.
The relationship between youth and law enforcement isn’t where
 it should be. I saw the call and thought, ‘Perfect — this is the
 opportunity.’”

In January 2016, Gainesville police officer Bobby White
 responded to a call that changed his life. After someone 
complained of a group of teenagers playing basketball “loudly” 
in the street, White drove to the scene.
The kids froze when Officer White rolled up, stepped out of his
 patrol car, and started walking toward them.
“Can you believe someone’s calling and complaining about kids
 playing basketball in the streets? I don’t know who called, but 
obviously I ain’t got a problem with it,” said White as he grabbed
 the ball and aimed at the hoop.
Then, they started to play. Other kids from the street joined in.
 Ten minutes later when White left, eight kids had joined in — 
and his dashboard camera had caught it all on tape.
Little did White know, the Gainesville PD’s Public Information
 Officer decided to post the video on the department’s Facebook
 page with the hashtag #HoopsNotCrime. Views began rolling 
in. Six hours later, the video hit one million views and kept 
climbing — all the way to 17 million.
Officer White—aka “Basketball Cop”—became an overnight
 sensation but insisted that what he did was no big deal. “This
 is what cops do every day. It’s not out of the ordinary. If you
 look for it, you’ll see it.”
White began giving interviews, and people started sending
 basketball equipment to the department. That’s when he
 realized that with the attention came a valuable opportunity…
He had a chance to change the relationship between
 police officers and youth across the country.
Officer White’s first step was to start a GoFundMe for the
 aptly named Basketball Cop Foundation. Donations helped
 White set up the nonprofit as a registered 501c3, build two 
pro-size basketball courts for Gainesville youth, and send 
portable hoops and basketballs to 28 police departments
 across the country.
“I always drive around with a basketball and football in the
 trunk of my patrol car so I can get out and interact with kids
in a positive way,” said White. “That’s the power of sports. 
Sports teams are diverse, and they work together toward a 
common goal. That’s how we want to be.
“For under $200, we can send out a portable hoop 
and basketballs. That gets 30 cops and 50 kids 
playing together. The number of police officer-child 
relationships we can build is only limited by money.”
In addition to the basketball courts and hoops, White’s 
foundation has helped officers hand out backpacks, school 
supplies, and even Christmas gifts to local kids — all distributed
 from the trunks of patrol cars.
Officer White did all this with just $20,000 raised from
 generous donors across the country. Now a year later, he’s 
ready to do even more.
Officer White and the original #HoopsNotCrime crew 
at the court his foundation built for them.
Media attention has brought White new friends and fans
 (like basketball legend Shaq) as well as opportunities to
 share his vision of building positive police-youth relationships, 
including an invitation to speak at the recent NBA All-Star
 Game. But White’s number one priority is still the 
kids in his community — including the original 
#HoopsNotCrime crew.
The viral video was not the end of their story. Officer White
 and the kids remain very close. They play ball, share 
updates, and the kids even text White when they need help
 or advice. On a typical day you can find White completing 
his rounds, updating Basketball Cop Foundation’s social
media, and teaching his #HoopsNotCrime friend Tyree how
 to drive.
Recently, White organized the foundation’s second annual 
High School All-Star Game, with the top high school players
 in Gainesville competing against the top police officers 
from the department. Community members and the 
#HoopsNotCrime crew cheered players on from the
 packed stands as they played, joked, and competed side-by-side.
Basketball Cop Foundation’s second annual High School
 All-Star Game on March 10, 2017.
But Bobby White’s not done yet. A year before he became the
 Basketball Cop, White stepped out of his car, pulled a
 football from his trunk, and played catch with a
 two-year-old named Duke. Something just clicked, and 
they’ve been inseparable since. White and Becki Holcomb —
 his girlfriend and fellow officer — think of Duke, his siblings, 
and his mother as their second family.
“I’ll be honest — I grew up poor, my mom was addicted to
 drugs, and we moved from boyfriend to boyfriend,” said
 White. “I didn’t have a positive male figure in my life.
 Neither does Duke, but I want to be that for him. I told
 his mom I’ll be there when he graduates high school and
 goes to college. These are the relationships I want to build
 across the country.”
Officer White’s goal? To challenge 100 cops every
 year to go out in their community and find a
 Duke. To have a “basketball cop” in every police agency
 in the country. To help officers and kids connect,
 empathize, and thrive. To heal the divide between police
 and the community.
If Officer White’s story inspires you, please ❤ and share.

Change someone’s life — and your own. Start a GoFundMe.
Photos by Matt Pendleton Photography.
Special thanks to Officer White (aka 
Basketball Cop), the
 #HoopsNotCrime crew, and the Gainesville community.