The Gift of Giving


Hannah Sammer shares information about Hoops for Hope with Caleb Wilson, Stormy Plunk, Jared Hahn and Aaron Tagala

By Patti Welander
Bloomington Pantagraph

LeROY -- When her grandmother and an uncle died last year, LeRoy High School senior Hannah Sammer relied on the support of her church and her friends.

But instead of "paying back" those who helped, Sammer is "paying it forward" by organizing Hoops for Hope, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on July 17 to benefit Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems, which provides support for people in crisis.

"I want people who are going through a tough time to know there is hope and support in the community," said Sammer, who is among 14 other teens in her father's Sunday school class at LeRoy United Methodist Church. Bob Sammers inherited money from his mother's estate and used it to give $100 to each of the 15, challenging them to "pay it forward."

The students are "putting a lot of thought" into what they will do, but Sammer doesn't intend to ask what they do with the money.

"If you have expectations of what they are to do with the gift, then you haven't given it," he said.

Junior Allie Morrison said her first reaction was that Bob Sammer was "crazy for giving us money." Now, she said, she thinks it's a "cool idea" and feels honored that he trusts her.

Morrison plans to use her money to host an event to gather shoes for children in Africa.

Sammer's daughter might have a hard time spending her $100. She planned to buy for medals for tournament winners, but the seller donated the awards when he learned the story behind the purchase.

"It's amazing to sit back and watch," said Bob Sammer, explaining people have come forward with donations and organizational expertise.

Youth Director Steve Ward has been challenging teens to "do something, not wait for someone else to do it." Instead of joining a cause, Ward encouraged them to take the lead.

"They aren't different than anyone else. If they want to make something happen, they can make it happen," he said.

Sammer doesn't view his contribution as anything special. "It wasn't really mine to begin with," he said. "My mom is making an impact in her passing."

He good-naturedly recalls a scene from the movie, "Pay It Forward."

"The kid asks the teacher what he has ever done to change the world," said Sammer. "Like the teacher said, ‘I'm just the schmuck who has shown up and passed the buck.'"