Broward County

Helping Haitian orphans with hoops

Two boys from the Destiny Village orphanage in Pierre Payen, Haiti, play with one of the 300 basketballs that Hoop for Haiti sent to the home. Alexis Murphy, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team at Nova Southeastern University, founded the nonprofit.
Two boys from the Destiny Village orphanage in Pierre Payen, Haiti, play with one of the 300 basketballs that Hoop for Haiti sent to the home. Alexis Murphy, a senior guard on the women’s basketball team at Nova Southeastern University, founded the nonprofit.

Alexis Murphy has already made a name for herself on the basketball court.

A 5-9 senior guard on the highly ranked Nova Southeastern University’s women’s basketball team, the 21-year-old Murphy has helped the Sharks reach at least the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Division II playoffs in each of her first three years. This season, the Sharks (22-4, overall, 13-3 in the Sunshine State Conference) are ranked 18th in the nation and begin conference playoffs on Wednesday.

But she has made her real mark leading another team. She is the founder and CEO of Hoop For Haiti, a charitable organization that has raised $17,000 and counting — to help the Destiny Village orphanage in Pierre Payen, Haiti, about 50 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Murphy’s organization built the first basketball court at Destiny Village, and has sent 300 new Nike basketballs for the kids. And the Los Angeles Sparks and WNBA Cares have partnered with Murphy to help raise awareness and funds for her cause.

Basketball is quickly becoming a fast-growing sport in Haiti and word of her project is spreading.

Earlier this month, Murphy was chosen as one of 10 female college basketball players in the nation to be part of the 2016 Allstate WBCA and NABC Good Works Teams. The award recognizes college basketball players who better the lives of others.

“I wasn’t aware what a big deal this was until my coach [LeAnn Freeland] made me realize that this award was only given to 10 women spread out over three NCAA divisions,” Murphy said. “When you think of how many women are involved in their communities — this award means a lot. I hope it inspires others to find their own way to get involved and continue the chain of love.”

Murphy has a family history of helping others.

“Lexi has always attended church,” said her mother, Jennifer Standifer, talking about her childhood in Carlisle, Ohio. “She was taught that if you have something to give, you give it. … Lexi has a really good heart.”

Murphy said a childhood friend, Brooke Lewis, who had been to Haiti on a church mission, inspired her. Murphy began reading up about Haiti and learned about the January 2010 earthquake that devastated much of Port-au-Prince. Concerned that her time at NSU was slipping away and she hadn’t made the impact on the world she had wanted, she jumped in to help the Haitian children.

Last March, she started two companies: Hoop Through Life, which is a for-profit organization that runs camps for girls’ basketball players; and Hoop For Haiti, the charity.

I don’t know what I did to deserve all this. I get to travel and play basketball with my best friends and work with kids. I’m blessed.

Alexis Murphy, a senior guard on the Nova Southeastern University women’s basketball team, who has started a charity to help orphaned children in Haiti through basketball

One of her NSU teammates, 5-11 senior forward Molly Blomer of West Chester, Ohio, became vice president of Murphy’s organization.

“Molly is very organized and can make my big ideas come true,” said Murphy, who has five other people, all women, on her staff. “I don’t have the ceiling to know what’s not possible, and Molly can tell me when I’m being unrealistic.”

Danielle Robinson, a former teammate who is now a graduate assistant coach at NSU, said Murphy and Blomer are making the same commitment to the charity as they do to their team.

“I’m sure they don’t even see color,” Robinson said. “I guarantee that’s not an issue. They are just thankful for the opportunity to help whomever. What they’ve done wows me every day.”

Murphy and Blomer put together a website — hoopthroughlife.com — and defined their mission: “Hoop and evolve together. Engage, embrace, empower — stronger women on and off the court.”

They held their first camp last summer in Ohio and had 38 paying customers — girls who wanted to learn more about basketball while also embracing the organization’s core values: wellness, communication, community and heart.

Ten percent of the money raised from the camps goes to the Haiti fund, with Florida Mortgage Solution being the largest donor. But there’s also a jug set up in the NSU locker room, and teammates give what they can for the cause.

This summer, Hoop Through Life will put on 10 camps, traveling to Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, New York, California, Colorado and Washington. Nike and a WNBA franchise, the New York Liberty, have partnered with Hoop Through Life. And the WNBA is flying Murphy and some of her staffers to a Los Angeles Sparks game at the Staples Center on July 10, where she will speak to the crowd about the work she is doing.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve all this,” Murphy said. “I get to travel and play basketball with my best friends and work with kids. I’m blessed.”

Murphy’s biggest idea has yet to happen, but it is on the horizon. In June, she and 15 others from her organization, including Blomer, Lewis, volunteers and some former campers, will travel to Haiti to visit the Destiny Village orphanage. It will be Murphy’s first visit to the island nation.

“There’s a world out there that she has no clue about — people who make a living preying on women and children,’’ Standifer said. “But I’m proud that she wants to do for others.”

Murphy, who is working on a master’s degree in forensic psychology, acknowledges the danger, but the reward is worth the risk in her mind.

“It’s not the safest place,” Murphy said, “but we will have armed guards to take us from the airport to the orphanage.”

Murphy said she was brought to tears last month when she saw photos of the completed basketball court, which is decorated with the “Hoop Through Life” logo in the middle. She also received cards from some of the children at the orphanage, thanking her for the court, the balls and other gifts, such as books.

“I haven’t had a single moment where I thought, ‘This isn’t worth it,’ ” Murphy said. “It doesn’t matter what country I’m from or what country they’re from. I just want to continue the chain of love.”

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