College Classic is a Christian College Basketball tournament hosted by Cookson Hills every January. The teams play back-to-back for 3 days straight and they stay in the homes of staff members and houseparents, eating their meals in the dining hall. They connect with all the kids and earn loyal fans from each of their hosting houses. In between their busy game schedule, they play board games, video games, eat snacks and most importantly show genuine interest in the lives of the kids who call Cookson Hills home.
For everyone, College Classic is a CRAZY time, but amazingly crazy! This year I was driving back from my vacation time thinking through everything I need to do to host 29 people in my home…yes, you read that correctly – TWENTY-NINE. My family deep-cleaned before we left; I had arranged for the food to be delivered, and we were almost ready for the Crossroads Men’s and Women’s basketball teams to stay in our home.
This was an opportunity to share what we had been so generously blessed with by Cookson Hills supporters – a large and spacious child-care home with new furniture, state-of-the-art electronics, and plenty of snack food! The team arrived and spread out – girls on one hall, boys on the other, some taking up residency on the floors and couches. Everywhere you looked there were college kids, bags, pillows, blankets, basketball jerseys, shoes, socks, and warm-ups!
The young men and women in our home traveled 12 hours from Rochester, Minnesota and had never been to Cookson Hills before. They were shocked with the hospitality and the unique set-up that makes us special. I got to be “Team Mom” and on many occasions helped them just as I would my own kid. They were so grateful and thankful, but I reminded them it was not my house – it belongs to God, just like all of our earthly possessions.
So why does Cookson Hills host this tournament? From my perspective, there are multiple reasons. One, it gives our kids an opportunity to meet quality role-models. They see college athletes competing in a Christ-honoring way, and then they interact with them off the courts in their own homes. Two, it brings an entertaining event to our campus that is just plain fun. Three, it gives everyone who lives here an opportunity to practice hospitality, teaching our kids how to give of themselves freely and unselfishly. Four, it reveals Cookson Hills to future church leaders, ministers, teachers, pastors, and business leaders. We want Cookson Hills to continue to thrive, but that can only happen if people learn about the ministry and the services we are offering to children and families in crisis.
At the end of the three days, as our teams were packing up to leave, the kids got hugs from their super-hero basketball players, we all said our goodbyes, took a group picture, and then I took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. I was exhausted, but I wouldn’t have traded anything for the experience of the crazy College Classic!