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OSH patients compete, learn at Salem’s annual Hoopla basketball tournament

For the second consecutive year, the Oregon State Hospital’s Bridges Program had a patient team compete at the Hoopla 3-on-3 community basketball tournament in downtown Salem. Patients Dana Sword, Robert Orr and Damien Ellison played as the “Blue Jumper Cats” at this year’s tournament, which was held July 24-25.

Patients Robert Orr (left) and Dana Sword play basketball in the Kirkbride gym. Both were members of the Blue Jumper Cats, a team of OSH patients and staff that competed in the Hoopla 3-on-3 basketball tournament last month in downtown Salem.

The event has been a success, with patients in OSH’s community transition program getting to experience not only a big community event, but one where they engage in a healthy recreational pastime with community members. Hoopla has generously waived the fees for the Bridges team both years.

“It gives the patients a sense of normalcy,” said Recreation Specialist Eric Richey, who coached the team. “They managed their frustrations. They were good sports. They were participating in the community, and they handled the experience better than a lot of community members, honestly.”

Participation in Hoopla, like other outings, requires a trip slip signed by the patient’s nurse manager, but because of the competitive nature and high-exposure of the event, special considerations and program-level approval is also required.

During the course of the four games in the tournament, the team worked together to figure out a rotation and develop plays and strategies.

“There was lots of competition … I’d say heavenly competition,” said Orr with a grin.

But Orr added that for him, the most important thing about participating in the tournament was “getting used to being around folks who don’t have a mental illness and seeing how they manage their behavior.”

Sword mirrored Orr’s sentiment that the most important aspects of the Hoopla outing go beyond the lines of the court.

“It’s important for our wellness, our fitness, and for us to get out into the community and enjoy sober activities,” said Sword. “But, it also gives us a chance to demonstrate the coping skills we’ve developed from going to groups … to demonstrate that we can handle an open, fun activity in the community.”

Interest for the Hoopla squad has been growing, and members of the Blue Jumper Cats hope that more than one team can compete next year.

“We have a lot of guys here [at OSH] who play basketball,” said Ellison. “It’s really important. Hoopla gives us the opportunity to play against other people and learn.”

Richey said interest will continue to grow after this year’s visit.

“The guys are now coming back and talking about Hoopla with their peers,” said Richey. “Playing in Hoopla is an incentive for patients to do well.”