'It starts with just a basketball': Gym teacher trying to bring community together through his love of basketball

Jon-Ross Merasty-Moose giving out basketballs to kids in Thompson on Friday, July 16, 2021. (Jon-Ross Merasty-Moose)

A physical education teacher in Thompson is encouraging people to get outside and be active through his love of basketball.

Jon-Ross Merasty-Moose said the pandemic has made it hard for people to get out and play and the local indoor court in Thompson is being used as a vaccine site.

So he decided he would start leaving basketballs at courts for people to take and go play with.

"It starts with just a basketball, right, a piece of equipment. Our aim, more or less, was for, again, people to come together," said Merasty-Moose.

He said what started off as a few basketballs has grown substantially and he ended up giving away 250 balls to kids in Thompson on Friday.

He said as word spread about what he was doing he gained support from others, starting with his online gaming community, which donated around $600 to buy basketballs.

Then Basketball Manitoba heard what he was doing and the organization donated $1,000. That was followed by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which donated another $1,500.

"It's help one, inspire many, was kind of the aim for that. I'll have people who we were encouraging, nurturing, helping grow as they get older, and when they come back, that's when you feel most like you've done something right."

Merasty-Moose said when he was growing up there weren't those opportunities to just grab a basketball and go play and he wanted to make sure today's kids have that chance.

"We could provide the piece of equipment, but more or less, that connection between family, friends, it comes out more when they are doing outdoor social activities."

He said the hope is more basketballs will be donated soon as a new court is being built in the community.

Merasty-Moose said his next goal is to try and host free basketball clinics for kids in the area.