Randy Gragg Celebrates Final Quarter of the Hoop Shoot

On the same night Randy Gragg took an obligation to join Atchinson, Kan., Lodge No. 647, he unknowingly took one for the Elks National Foundation. Gragg was asked to fill a role for the Foundation that wove itself into his life for the next 36 years.

“[The Lodge] asked me to become their Hoop Shoot Director,” Gragg shares. “I had no idea what they were talking about, but I said, ‘If it involves kids and a basketball, I’m in!’”

In that moment, Gragg says he could have never predicted the places he would see, the people he would meet, and the memories he would make through the Hoop Shoot. In 2002, Gragg was appointed regional director, propelling into a position he would hold for the next 16 years.

“This program has been part of our lives for so long, I’m not sure what it would have been without it,” says Randy, who retired from official Hoop Shoot responsibilities after the San Antonio Convention. “It’s hard to imagine any other life that could have been better.”

And what a life it has been. Upon reflection, Gragg says he and his wife, Liz, remember every contestant—from the ones who never got an award to the ones with rooms full of them—with fondness. Gragg has watched Hoop Shoot kids grow up to have Hoop Shoot kids of their own, and he holds these memories especially close.

Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly runs the Hoop Shoot program for the Elks National Foundation. Donnelly says he has not only learned many things from Gragg, but he’s also watched him and his wife form relationships with families.

“The Graggs’ connection with families helps encourage kids to come back and compete year after year,” says Donnelly. “The Graggs even take it a step further by remaining in contact with the families even after the kids are too old to compete, which speaks volumes about the connections they make.”

Gragg has been an anchor for contestants. During the contests, he’s a stern referee, but when the red jacket is off, he’s back to being a doting father figure. Gragg has been a part of contestants’ lives and watched on the sidelines as they completed milestones like graduating high school and getting married. Gragg’s presence in their lives won’t end with his Hoop Shoot career.

“The best part of working with these kids all these years is watching them mature into great young and successful adults,” Gragg says. “It seems that no matter how they finish, they never have forgotten Liz, me, or this program.”

Gragg has epitomized what it means to be a Hoop Shoot Director; he’s kind-hearted, inspirational and honest, and he leaves just one more piece of advice for future Hoop Shooters:

“Take what you have learned from toeing the line in our program. Leave with a smile on your face knowing you gave it your all. Strive to practice to become a better free throw shooter, person, sister, brother, and student. You will be a winner no matter how many shots you make.”

In his next chapter, Gragg looks forward to spending winters in Texas while staying involved with his Lodge’s Hoop Shoot contests and continuing to strengthen the ties he’s made these past four decades for years to come.

We're going to miss Gragg's humor, excitement and dedication to the program. He kept the Hoop Shoot fun, and for that, and much more, he will always have a special place in the program’s history.


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