LIMA — When Toby Smith was 10-years-old, he found a way to combine his love of basketball with an urge to do something good for the community by organizing a fundraising event called Hoops for Heartbeat to raise money for pregnancy care center Heartbeat of Lima.
“I just wanted to do something that brought me closer to God,” Smith, now 16, said. “I knew I wanted to do something that had to do with basketball.”
He created Hoops for Heartbeat, a free throw shooting fund raising event held each year, save one, since he was 10 years old.
Kendall Smith, Toby’s mother, said part of the reason he choose a pregnancy group to support was because his older brother and wife were about to have a child, and Toby Smith had babies on his mind. He was also inspired by a class he took, she said.
“In a class, he saw a video about paying it forward and the different ways to pay it forward,” she said.
Heartbeat of Lima is a small organization, and it made sense to donated to them instead of larger alternatives, Toby Smith said. Things began small the first year — he raised around $1,600 without a lot of participation, he said.
“The first year we only had one family I didn’t know personally show up,” Toby Smith said. “Everyone else was family and friends.”
This year’s event, held March 24, saw 15 children participating, Kendall Smith said. Each child takes a pledge sheet out to the public and gets pledges from other people. Pledges can be made as an overall total or a certain amount per free throw, Toby Smith said. Normally, the big pledges come from people pledging a straight amount like $100. Pledges made for each free throw usually range from 25 cents to $1 per free throw made, he said. Making big pledges on free throws could cost someone a lot of money because a couple of years ago, two children shooting made 92 and 89 shots out of 100, Toby Smith said.
“I thought it was absolutely breathtaking that a 10-year-old would reach out and help a pregnancy center,” said Patti Kennedy, director of Heartbeat of Lima.
Heartbeat of Lima provides a wide range of services, including pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, information and assistance with adoption, pregnancy and parenting classes for mothers and fathers and supplemental assistance with clothing, diapers and other necessities for children up to 3 years old.
The organization doesn’t receive any funding from state or federal sources and depends on donations from people like Toby Smith, who has raised around $10,000 through Hoops for Heartbeat. Because of his fundraising efforts, he received the Life Leadership award from Heartbeat of Lima last year.
“$10,000 has been an unbelievable help,” she said.
The donations were used to purchase diapers and other supplemental supplies those utilizing Heartbeat of Lima’s services could earn through completing classes and other events.
Toby Smith said he will probably continue doing Hoops for Heartbeat until after school, at which time he will see if his nephew, Leon, would want to take over. He’s considering going to college but isn’t sure what he wants to do exactly, though he’s leaning toward something with cars. As for his fundraising ways, he would like continue with it but isn’t sure if he will, he said.
“One of the reasons his dad, Randy, and I are so supportive is because of what Heartbeat does,” Kendall Smith said. “Doing this is so far outside his comfort zone. It’s been a learning and growing experience for him.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.