This is PART 1 of a series on the Beakats international trip to Costa Rica

By: Jeremy Villanueva

The university motto – “The measure of a life is its service” – extended past the local community for Sam Houston State men’s basketball team this summer.

The Bearkats traveled to Costa Rica where they competed against the Costa Rica National Team, visited the beach and zip-lined, but it was the service at the Asociación obras del Espíritu Santo orphanage that defined the trip.

“Being able to know what we stand for as a university and an athletic program and having our athletic director there with us was a really neat experience,” head coach Jason Hooten said. “And then to be able to go in there and uphold whatever we stand for and interact with those children they never met before in a country they’ve never been to was a good feeling for me as a coach.”

The team had the choice to tour a city or do service work at the orphanage during their six-day trip. According to assistant coach Chris Mudge, it wasn’t even a doubt that the squad should give back.

“It’d be so much better for our guys from a perspective sense to give them something they’d remember more than just walking the city,” Mudge said. “Those guys will remember playing soccer with those kids and playing with them on the playground forever. That’s what they’ll remember most from the trip.”

The orphanage feeds nearly 800 children and houses about 50 of them. It’s equipped with such things as a cafeteria, nurseries, an outdoor area and small carnival rides.

“The orphanage itself was in what I would say a pretty rough neighborhood,” Hooten said. “It was interesting because the orphanage was there and no matter what went on in that part of the city, it seemed they just left that orphanage alone in that area.”

During their time at the orphanage, the Bearkats would play with the kids in the nursery rooms and even got to take their athleticism out to the soccer pitch.

“When we went into the nursery itself, the kids were all in there playing,” Hooten said. “Our guys immediately gravitated to them and got in there with the toys. That experience of those guys being able to hold those kids and those kids running up to them wanting to hold them and riding on their shoulders, I think that was a big deal for our guys. And then also the soccer game. Them being able to play and going up-and-down with them, that was a neat experience and fun to watch.”

Amongst the Kats are two transfers, graduate forward Phillip Jones, Jr. and senior guard John Dewey, Jr. Jones joined the program after playing with UTSA for three seasons while Dewey spent a season at Blinn. Hooten commended these two on plugging right into the team and leaving their impact on the children.

“It was great to see those new guys interact with those kids like they did and just as giving with their time,” Hooten said. “You could tell they weren’t doing it because they were ‘asked to’ or ‘suppose to.’ They were doing it because they are just that kind of guys and want to try to make a difference there.”

The trip provided the whole team with camaraderie and bond that Hooten hopes can carry into the season and beyond.

“We try to give back as much as we can, and I think that’s a good testament to what our guys are doing,” Hooten said. “Hopefully that propels them to want to do more even after they finish here when they go out and get jobs and become successful.”

If you’d like to make a donation to Asociación obras del Espíritu Santo, you can visit www.obrasdelespiritussanto.org for more information.