The great Nelson Mandela famously said, “Sports has the power to change the world.” This is an ethos that the Boston-based non-governmental organization, Shooting Touch, has channeled and carried out since their inception in 2010. This past Saturday, the organization held their fifth annual gala at Reebok’s headquarters in Canton, MA.

Shooting Touch is often referred to as the “Basketball Peace Corps” as through generous donations, the organization is able to fully fund two fellows to use basketball, as their mission says, as a tool “to improve the lives of youth from under-resourced areas of Rwanda.” The impact is palpable, as over 3,500 youth have had their lives positively changed because of Shooting Touch.

Board member and current assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jay Triano was in attendance and spoke about the impact of Shooting Touch, “Basketball is a sport that pays it forward. Donors pay it forward by funding Shooting Touch’s fellows. This changes the lives of the fellows. The fellows in turn, pay it forward by changing the lives of Rwanda’s youth.”

Shooting Touch has many supporters in the NBA besides Triano. The organization works with the NBA through NBA Cares and Boston Celtics forward, Kelly Olynyk is a very enthusiastic supporter. Olynyk brought his fellow Celtics teammates Chris Babb, Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey and coach Brad Stevens to the gala. He also put his chef skills, which he takes great pride in, up for auction, much to the delight of attendees.

Besides being their half-decade anniversary, the gala was noteworthy for the release of a short documentary narrated by the great sportswriter, Jackie MacMullan. The documentary focused on the efforts of Shooting Touch in Rwanda and how through basketball, the organization is changing lives there:

As the documentary showed and afterward echoed in a speech by co-founder and executive directory, Lindsey Kittredge, “If you build a place to play. It builds hope.”

The cost of building a court in Rwanda is $5,000. A handful of attendees, including Triano, agreed to build two more Shooting Touch courts thus increasing the impact of the program.

With Rwanda in the heart Ebola of the crisis, organizations like Shooting Touch are providing help where it is sorely needed. The organization speaks to the magic of basketball as just a ball and a hoop can change lives. These are lives that will pay it forward all because of Shooting Touch.

For more information and to donate to Shooting Touch, visit their website: www.shootingtouch.com.