It started out quite simply. Dobbie Herrion was driving his SUV around St. Louis. He noticed a basketball court without a net. He went to the store and bought a $3 net. The next day he returned to that court with his ladder and hung the new net. It was a small gesture that made a huge difference in his life and is changing the lives of kids.
“Selfishly, I liked the feeling I got,” said Herrion.
He bought more nets and kept them in his vehicle along with his ladder.
“I drove around and I saw courts with no net or nets so ragged they needed new ones,” he said. “Next time, I just took out my ladder and asked if I could put up a net, People responded as if someone had come and blessed the courts.
Soon at other courts guys stopped playing to help him and to talk to him. Then people in the community came out. Within a couple of weeks, Herrion’s wife Tameka and another friend were helping him.
“The net is a hook, something visible. It leads to conversation,” said Herrion, 36, director of the Academic Support Center at St. Louis Community College and lover of the game. “I never only saw this as me hanging up basketball nets. I know the people need much more than basketball nets. These young kids need mentoring, visible leadership and opportunities to get involved in the community.”
So Herrion turned hanging nets into a nonprofit called Neighborhood Nets, an organization set to provide mentoring, workshops and scholarships to basketball camps, with plans to broaden its services in the future.
It’s only been three months since Herrion hung his first net. To date, Neighborhood Nets has hung 80 nets and Herrion expects the total will be 100 before winter sets in. Already, he has been honored by Allstate, which recognized him in its “Give It Up For Good” campaign.
In a press release, Lisa Cochrane, senior vice president of marketing for Allstate, explained, “Through this initiative, we’re able to recognize individuals who are leading their communities through service and are an inspiration to all.”
Herrion is stunned by the attention his efforts have gotten. “Who gets this kind of recognition in a month for hanging up basketball nets?” he asked.
But it is probably the simplicity of his efforts that have captured people’s imagination.
“I think he’s like a lot of people who are always asking, ‘What can I do?’” said Herrion’s good friend, Kellen Goodwin, who now volunteers to help market Neighborhood Nets and find sponsors. “Here was something simple that just fell into his lap. I think it came because he didn’t wrack his brain and did something natural to him. When you aren’t in politics or involved in high level meetings, you wonder how you can make an impact. We all hope this will inspire others.”
It wasn’t long before Herrion’s wife and a member of his newly formed board started helping him hang nets. If one of them saw a netless rim, they’d call Herrion and the three of them met at the location.