JACKSON, Tenn. – March 17, 2010 – Fans at the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship that began March 17 at Oman Arena in Jackson may notice that many of the players are dressing alike off the court.
It’s not a new dress code that the NAIA has instituted. It’s an effort on the part of nine of the 32 teams participating in the tournament to raise awareness about the orphan crisis. The players on those nine teams have all committed to wearing special T-shirts every time their teams are together off the court, such as when they’re watching other games or eating together in a restaurant.
“We should be using basketball for a platform,” Union women’s basketball coach Mark Campbell said.
Campbell and Vanguard coach Russ Davis spearheaded the effort, which began when Campbell sent Davis a blog post he read a couple of weeks ago at joiningthejourney.blogspot.com. The post emphasized the plight of orphans around the world and asked Christians what they were doing in response.
Davis called Campbell and suggested doing something at the NAIA tournament that would bring awareness to the plight of 147 million orphans in the world.
“I think a lot of people, especially Christians, they’re not aware of that,” Campbell said.
The two decided that their teams would wear T-shirts sold by the non-profit group 147 Million Orphans. The NAIA quickly approved their request.
The purchase of one T-shirt feeds an orphan for two weeks in a Ugandan community where 21-year-old Katie Davis, of Brentwood, Tenn., is serving. Davis has adopted 14 Ugandan girls and runs Amazima Ministries in Uganda. In August, Campbell and his Lady Bulldogs team will visit Davis on a mission trip and minister with her.
Campbell and Davis started calling other teams to enlist their participation as well, and had to stop because they ran out of T-shirts. In addition to Union and Vanguard, other teams wearing the T-shirts at this year’s tournament are Lee, Westminster (Utah), Freed-Hardeman, Bethel, Trevecca, Azusa Pacific and Biola.
Also as part of this year’s tournament, which runs through March 23, 147 Million Orphans has a booth with T-shirts available for purchase.
The cause is especially meaningful to Campbell and his wife Mollie, who in January adopted their 13-month-old son Kalyan from India.
The top-seeded Lady Bulldogs open played in the tournament with an 86-47 win over Southwestern Assemblies of God University. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, who won the TranSouth conference tournament, have a first-round matchup against Montana Western at 9:45 p.m. March 18 in the men’s NAIA National Championship in Kansas City, Mo.