Deputy makes a hoop dream come true for children

By Ken Luchterhand

The children at the Nekoosa Youth Center had a surprise visit on Saturday, Sept. 2 from Wood County Deputy Nathan Dean.
The surprise wasn’t so much that Deputy Dean showed up, it was what he brought with him.
He presented the Youth Center with a present: a brand new basketball stand, backboard and hoop.
He had been there before and saw what kind of backboard they were using and he had to do something about it.
“On May 26 of this year, I was on patrol down by the casino and when I had driven by the Youth Center,” Dean said. “I saw a group of kids playing basketball, so I felt like it was a good time to pull on in there and shoot some hoops with them. I pulled in and we actually ended up playing a couple games of basketball in the parking lot of the youth center. We had a great time.”
He noticed that the backboard was complete shattered, with three or four holes and very little of the backboard actually left, he said. Either it was vandalized or it was broken throughout the years of use.
It made it tough to play basketball, Dean said.
“I left that night and when I got home, I immediately I told my wife about it. I said, ‘Hey, I played basketball with a group of kids and the backboard was literally shattered.’ I showed her a picture of it on my phone. I took the photo with a group of kids and I told her ‘I got to find a way to get them a new basketball hoop.’”
He throught maybe the Sheriff’s Department could help him with the project, or maybe he could raise the couple hundred dollars and he’d buy one for them, he said.
“It was my next work shift and I sent an email right away to our patrol captain and my lieutenant,” Dean said. “I pretty much laid it out, saying that I played basketball with a group of kids at the Ho-Chunk Youth Center and their backboard was shattered and definitely in need of replacement.  I wanted to see if we could do anything here at the Sheriff’s Department, whether it was through a fundraiser, or if we had some extra money set aside, so we could purchase a basketball hoop.”
His patrol captain said he would check into it and talk with the sheriff.
“If there was nothing we could do at the Sheriff’s Department, my patrol captain said he would be fully onboard with putting together some sort of fundraiser,” he said.
About a week went by and Dean was told that the Sheriff’s Department will fund it. He should find the basketball hoop that I want to buy and let them know how much it would cost.
“I was super excited,” he said. “I found a basketball hoop and we got it ordered.”
The basketball stand, backboard and hoop arrived so, on Sept. 2, Dean and Lt. Charlie Hoogesteger came in early that day and put together the hoop and backboard at the sheriff’s department. It was more of a job than they ever expected. They read the directions and tried a couple different times to make it work, but finally got the right combination.
They loaded the basketball stand, backboard and hoop onto the county’s maintenance truck and headed for the youth center.
“As soon as pulled into the place, the kids were playing basketball, that’s one of their favorite things to do down there,” he said. “The children are a large range of ages at the youth center, but they all enjoy playing basketball, it’s something that brings them together, you can clearly tell that they enjoy playing that sport together. It’s really neat.”
Dean and Hoogesteger got them all circled up around them.
“I said ‘Hey, how about we get you something new for a basketball hoop? They yelled, Yeah, yeah!’ I walked them back to the truck – and that’s when I presented the basketball hoop to them. They were all excited and couldn’t wait to play a game with it,” he said.
“There were lots of smiles. Once they saw it they were definitely anxious to get it up. Right away, a group of the kids rolled away the old one. We put the new one right in place of the old one.”
They assembled the equipment, putting the backboard on the post, and filled up the base with water so that it was weighted down.
“Then me and the lieutenant ended up playing a basketball game with the kids to break in the new basketball hoop and backboard,” he said.
Not only was it heartwarming to be able to give the children what they needed so badly, but also it was a way to relationships between him and the kids, he said.
“It was great,” he said. “I’d do it all over again, if I could.”