The basketball courts at Tanner G. Duckrey Elementary School have bent or hanging rims, and the nets are torn or missing altogether.
Nick Aninsman realized children trying to improve their skills on these courts couldn’t do so without the right equipment.
“They’re not playing to their ability when they see this stuff,” he said.
So the junior special education and elementary education major started a GoFundMe campaign called “The Net Project” to provide the school’s basketball court on Diamond Street near 15th with new rims and nets.
His initial fundraising goal was $125. In six days, he raised more than $1,400.
“Seeing the comments, the shares and the likes, everyone is saying what I’ve been thinking,” he said.
Basketball has always been a big part of Aninsman’s life, he said.
He officiates basketball games for 10- to 16-year-olds for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, and he coaches students in grades nine through 12 in the city’s Police Athletic League.
Aninsman said he knows how important having quality equipment is to playing the game of basketball. The absence of nets on basketball hoops, for example, can really affect how a player performs and improves, he said.
“When shooting, I didn’t know if I made or airballed [the shot], because it went right through,” Aninsman said. “When you make that shot, and you hear that noise, it gives the shooter that feeling.”
“The kids are used to playing on these kinds of nets already,”Aninsman said. “They don’t know what they’re missing.”
The children at Duckrey “don’t have what the regular kid should be given,” Aninsman added. “I wasn’t asking for new courts, concrete or backboards. Just simple things they don’t have.”
Basil Brown, an eighth-grader at Duckrey, said he plays on the courts every day.
“We got to work with what we got,” Brown said. “Without the rim and net, you can’t really play basketball.”
“You can’t shoot on these rims,” added Wahkil Hunter, a seventh-grader at Duckrey. “Some of them aren’t even playable.”
After speaking with some neighborhood residents, Aninsman said most of the people who played on the courts at Duckrey “hadn’t seen new nets in two years.”
Aninsman’s initial plan was to fix one rim and a few nets. Now, because he’s received far more donations than he expected, he plans to fix at least 10 courts, including those adjacent to Duckrey, owned by the city’s Parks and Recreation department.
“The little things really do matter,” Aninsman added. “When my goal was $125, that was my little thing.”
Although he’s still working independently, Aninsman has been contacted by fraternities, residents of North Philadelphia and other students looking to help with his next project.
Once the courts at Duckrey are fixed, Aninsman already has plans to take his efforts to another local basketball court on 17th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
“It’s very possible that these things can get fixed really quick,” he said.
Paula Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.