Hoops for Haskins
How CGHS Senior Basketball Player Ben Nicoson Inspired An Outpouring of Generosity
Photography Provided by Christine Hynds of Hyndsight Photography
A car crash in Greenwood in December claimed the life of Southport High School senior football and basketball standout Rashawn Haskins. Rashawn’s sister, Brianna, was also in the accident and suffered severe injuries. Center Grove High School (CGHS) senior basketball player Ben Nicoson heard about the tragedy and felt compelled to help.
Nicoson spoke with his father, Brent, about initiating and leading a fundraising effort to assist the Haskins family during a time of need.
“We thought there could be something we could do to help them financially,” Nicoson says. “I thought of a program that Mount Pleasant (Christian Church) does. They ask everyone in attendance to donate one dollar per person in their family and donate it to a family in need. I thought that I could ask the boys varsity basketball teams to help out and donate a dollar per player and possibly have them ask their football teams as well since Rashawn played football.”
Nicoson reached out to CGHS Principal Jeff Henderson to present his idea.
“Ben scheduled a meeting with me to propose the creation of this fundraiser as a means to leverage his connections to the high school athletic programs in helping make a positive difference in the lives of the Haskins family,” Henderson says. “We brainstormed some ideas about how he could ensure coaches and athletic directors that he was operating his fundraiser with the approval of the school.”
With the support of CGHS, Nicoson launched a campaign known as “Hoops for Haskins.” He wrote a letter addressed to all the high school boys’ basketball coaches in the state, challenging each basketball player to donate a dollar. Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner, Bobby Cox, assisted Nicoson by sending the letter to all the high school athletic directors and basketball coaches in Indiana.
“Ben was very passionate about trying to give back to this family from the athletic community that had given him such great opportunities,” Henderson says. “He felt that this was a great way to reach out to the family and let them know that student-athletes around the state were all thinking of the family during their loss.”
“Ben’s project allowed our state’s high school basketball teams an opportunity to support a family in need and provide awareness that life is fragile,” Commissioner Cox says. “The one thing that resonates greatly with Ben is his motivation to help someone in need. While there is a great deal of negativity across all forms of media, our young people are doing amazing things. Those acts should fill the media content rather than all the negativity. Any time our student-athletes step up to go above and beyond to help others, I feel a sense of pride. Ben is certainly in that group.”
Hoops for Haskins began in late December and was to conclude at the end of the January. However, with such an incredible response from teams, players and communities from around the state, the fundraiser was extended until February 8.
“We had an amazing turn out across the state and an even better one in Johnson County,” Nicoson says. “Every Johnson County school donated and we had large donations from many MIC (Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) teams and many others. Roncalli donated a very generous amount as well.”
Locally, the Center Grove Basketball Hardwood Club, Center Grove Gridiron Club and the Center Grove High School Athletic Booster Club supported Hoops for Haskins with sizable donations. Also, dine to donate fundraisers were organized at nearby restaurants to help generate additional funds
The Southport boys’ basketball team was hosting its final regular season game on February, 16. The Southport Athletic Director, Pete Hubert, Southport basketball coach, Eric Brand and Southport football coach, Brandon Winters, said this was an excellent time for Nicoson to present a check to the Haskins family prior to the start of the varsity game. The Southport basketball players, coaches and fans stood and applauded during a mid-court ceremony as Nicoson gave a check to the Haskins Family in the amount of $22,208.92 for the Haskins Memorial Fund.
“It felt really good to finally be able to meet them (Haskins Family) and to finally be able to give them a form of hope,” Nicoson says.
Nicoson had competed against Rashawn on the basketball court but did not know him or the family personally.
“We think more than anything he has impacted the family with Hoops for Haskins. Which we believe was greatly appreciated,” Coach Brand says. They thought it was a great gesture and was kind to initiate such a selfless act.”
Nicoson’s high school varsity basketball coach the past three seasons, Zach Hahn, says the senior point guard is a leader by example.
“He has never cared about individual accolades and always has a team-first mentality,” Hahn says. “His character and work ethic are unmatched. He is a phenomenal student-athlete that also demonstrates being a great servant leader to his team, the school and the community. It was not surprising to me that he opened his heart and dedicated himself to the Haskins family when he saw they needed help in healing. I couldn’t be more proud of his gesture and his willingness to continuously put others first. Our society needs more random acts of kindness and constant reminders that life is good.”
Nicoson’s father says his son stepped outside of his comfort zone to make a difference.
“Susan (Ben’s mother) and I are very proud of Ben and happy he decided to run with an idea that has been so well received and helpful to the Haskins family,” says the elder Nicoson. “The communities, teams and individuals that supported Ben’s fundraiser deserve a lot of the credit. Ben took a chance and got out of his comfort zone to try to help a hurting family. I think that’s something Ben and others can take from this. If you take a chance and put your heart into something great, good things can come from it. I am very proud of him to actually put his idea into action. He followed through with a great idea and it changed a family’s life.”
Nicoson’s lead pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church (MPCC), Chris Philbeck, says he demonstrated great maturity and humility in his efforts to raise this money.
“There’s a verse from Psalms that comes to mind when I think about Ben,” Pastor Philbeck says. “It’s Psalm 25:9 that says, ‘He (God) guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his ways.’ Ben personifies this verse because he has a deep faith in God, and he recognizes the importance of living out that faith.
“At Mount Pleasant we talk a lot about changing the world. In fact, our mission statement is ‘To change the world: one life, one family, one opportunity at a time.’ It blesses me to know that Ben has taken that challenge to heart. I absolutely love that our weekly “Change for a Dollar” ministry gave him a practical way to help the Haskins family.
“I know that Ben did not do this to bring any attention to himself, but I’m so thankful that this story is being told because I definitely think it provides inspiration to everyone who hears it,” Pastor Philbeck adds. “What kind of impact would it have on our community if all of us could capture a vision for the power of encouraging and serving others? That’s what Ben did. He came alongside the Haskins family and served them in a way that I’m sure brought some light and hope into their world at a very difficult time.”
Nicoson’s MPCC high school pastor, Matt Pineda, has been his youth minister the past four years and has watched him grow in his faith and mature into the young man he is today.
“I told him I was proud that he took his resources and combined it with his heart for people and was able to do something special for God’s Kingdom.” Pineda says. “I want this to be something he can use as encouragement for the future in what his potential could be when he puts his heart and his resources together. We can all learn from Ben’s example that when people come together, something special can happen.
“Probably the most ironic thing about all of this is that Ben doesn’t want the credit or the recognition. He’s such a humble young man. In fact, he’d much rather just be in the background of all of this, but in order to raise the money, he has to be vocal about it. Some people desire to be praised, while others deserved to be praised. Ben deserves a great deal of recognition for his efforts to support this family and hopefully we can all be inspired to help others around us when they are hurting.”