When she was only a year old, Hallie Schiff was already trying to shoot hoops. She started playing basketball three years later.
Now a high school sophomore, Hallie is a point guard for her second year on The Westminster Schools girls’ basketball team who, last season, made the all-region team selected by area coaches – a big feat for a freshman. She also played on the Marcus JCC’s basketball Team Atlanta in the JCC Maccabi Games the past two years.
So, to say Hallie gets her kicks from basketball is an understatement.
Because she believes all children should have the opportunity to play their favorite sport, Hallie has been collecting new and gently-used basketball shoes and donating them to underprivileged children for the past few years.
“I wanted to do something other people don’t think about doing,” she said. “I know a lot of kids play basketball. There are a lot of courts where they can play outside.” She decided to collect sneakers because she knows children who don’t wear the right shoes or ones with rips and tears can get hurt. And she wanted to connect with those benefiting from her donations. “I wanted to feel a part of it.”
It started as a project for her bat mitzvah through The Epstein School. She put collection bins in front of Epstein and gathered through her Amateur Athletic Union travel basketball team. Children grow out of shoes so quickly that many of those donated were in good condition, said her mother, Cathy. She cleaned them and got them ready to be reused by others.
This past year, a chance encounter led to a connection with Under Armour, which donated 50 pairs of new basketball shoes to her drive. She donated them this summer, along with other sneakers she had collected, to the East Lake YMCA Youth and Teen Center. And this year, instead of just dropping off the sneakers, the YMCA let her help the children pick out a new pair and play basketball with them.
“Some of them had their shoes a long time. I could tell they were really excited” about the new sneakers, she said. Hallie said she enjoyed playing with them and many offered some true competition. “A lot of them were really good at basketball.”
Her Westminster varsity coach, Katie Argall, said two of Hallie’s “most indelible qualities are her focus and humility. She attacks things she cares about, such as her education, philanthropy, teams and faith with a quiet, yet tenacious, drive to improve herself and others. In the face of her successes, she remains modest and humble, often deflecting earned praise in the hopes she can always find one more thing at which to excel.”
Offering further praise is Vanessa Toussiant, who was Hallie’s longtime coach from Epstein and has been her trainer since she was in the fourth grade.
“Even then I knew there was something special about that kid. As a coach, she’s the example of the type of player you want on your team. She’s selfless and works endlessly at perfecting her craft. She’s the first in the gym, last one out. Modest and humble. Always seeking ways to get better. Respected by her peers and teachers. There’s been nothing more gratifying than watching her grow up, and I’m only excited to see the future she creates.”