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For men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen, running a team is not just about cultivating good basketball players on the court. It’s about building “better men and productive citizens.”

It was with that goal in mind that Allen decided to teach his team a lesson in social responsibility with his “Hoops for Haiti” fundraiser tonight.

Students are encouraged to bring old shoes to the men’s basketball game against St. Joseph’s; they will be collected and sent to Haiti through an organization called Soles4Souls.

“It’s not just about what goes on here at Penn and the program we’re trying to build in terms of changing the culture,” Allen said. “We want to really extend ourselves to whomever is in need.”

The coach himself has a personal connection to Haiti. The wife of close friend and former Penn football player Jamie Daniels is from Haiti, and many of her relatives still live on the island. Allen described calling Daniels at 4 a.m. after hearing about the devastating earthquake to make sure his wife’s family and friends were safe.

Word of the fundraiser spread quickly through the athletic community, which has joined together to help Allen in his efforts. The women’s basketball team will be collecting the shoes in the concourse of the Palestra at the game tonight.

Women’s basketball coach Mike McLaughlin jumped at the opportunity to help with the drive.

“When Jerome came up with this concept, we asked if we could help in any way,” he said in a Penn Athletics press release. “This is an opportunity for our team to realize how truly fortunate we are, and it gives them an understanding that when people are in need, we have a responsibility to help them.”

Senior forward Caitlin Slover, who created a Facebook group for the drive, agreed.

“When something like this happens, it’s just good for everyone to organize … since we’re so fortunate it didn’t happen to us,” she said.

After learning about the fundraiser from Allen, senior Kellee Hand of the women’s track team immediately thought of the dozens of old shoes that runners have on their hands each year.

“I’m sure that these girls have them piled up in their rooms because we have to change our shoes every 400 miles,” Hand said.

While that may be a great distance for a casual jogger, 400 miles is just a drop in the bucket for a member of the track team.

Hand is bringing 15 old pairs of shoes herself and anticipates the average member of her 50-plus person team will have between one and three pairs each to bring.

To add to the lessons of the evening, Allen said that he may be coaching the game without his own shoes on — though students will have to come to the game to find out for sure.

“I would just hope that from the entire Penn community’s standpoint, this is something we can all embrace,” Allen said. “Make a difference in someone else’s life.”

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