“I don’t think we ever sat down and said, ‘Let’s start a nonprofit.’ That’s not what happened. Instead, the inspiration found us.”
That’s what Selene Nesland, a local resident of Camas, stated about her and her husband Derek’s nonprofit organization, Courts for Kids. In recent years, Courts for Kids has been growing and becoming more and more well-known. Some of Camas High School’s own students have attended Courts for Kids trips; even now, 25 CHS students are all signed up for a Costa Rica trip over spring break.
The organization, however, has been around much longer than a couple years, dating back to 2007 when Selene and Derek made it a reality. “When my husband played professional basketball overseas after college, he would go to places like China and he would see how crazy kids were about sports, especially about basketball, and they didn’t have a place to play. He thought to himself, ‘Wow, someone should help these kids, like, build a court or something,’” Selene says. Years later, after Derek quit playing basketball, Selene and Derek received a call from a community in the Philippines asking Derek to come down to play basketball there and to bring a team. Derek informed the community that he no longer played basketball and instead worked with students, and because he wanted the students he worked with to see the world as he had and teach them about service, he had an idea. Derek asked if they would be interested in having him and some students coming down and building a basketball court.
The effects of that simple email were amazing to behold. The very next day, the Neslands found three emails in their inbox, all from communities saying how much they would love them to come and build a court. The Neslands didn’t know it yet, but that single spring break trip to the Philippines would eventually become viewed as the very first Courts for Kids trip. The trip was wildly successful, and places all over began hearing about that success.
Communities from Honduras, Indonesia, and Costa Rica emailed the Neslands, wanting to know if they would build a court for them. Selene and Derek recognized that someone had to help, but that “it can’t be us, because, you know, we don’t do this for a living.”
They decided to look into that further, figuring there must be an organization out there somewhere to build courts for kids, but when their search yielded no results, they decided to put more teams together to go to those places and build those courts. It took them a year to fundraise, and during that year, Derek made a very big decision. “My husband came to me and said, ‘I think I want to leave my job and start a non-profit doing this.’ And so we really thought and prayed about it and decided to do that. So I left my job,” Selene explains, “and we started Courts for Kids.”