Finding a Personal Way to Show Support to the Troops
For the last few years, we have been honored to partner with the Indiana Pacers to create these beautiful challenge coins for the NBA’s annual Hoops for Troops celebrations every November. Players hand out these coins to the active duty soldiers invited to the stadium personally, with a number of other items like team shirts and game tickets, as a gesture of appreciation and respect in honor of their work protecting our nation.
The Pacers’ associate director of community relations, Richie Smith, spoke about the importance of NBA Cares and Hoops for Troops week saying, “Hoops for Troops is a huge part of the NBA and a huge part of our Pacers’ organization. Obviously, the reason is that any way that we can give back to a group that's putting their lives on the line every single day for us… that’s one of the biggest joys.”
Soldiers from every branch of the military collect custom challenge coins during their careers, making these Pacers coins a personal and meaningful gift to award to any soldier. Unit coins and commander coins are earned through superior service, for completing important missions and sometimes just to boost morale. But when a set of coins come from organizations outside of the military, they gain a different kind of meaning because they are created solely to show support and encouragement.
Crafting a Design that Makes A Difference
Hoops for Troops is part of the league’s year-round initiative to honor active and retired service members and their families. Their goal is to give back to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our nation by giving them a unique, behind the scenes experience as well as a few gifts that show their organization’s support. The Pacers decided that the most meaningful and lasting gift they would award to the soldiers invited to Hoops for Troops was a custom challenge coin.
And they are not alone in their decision to create custom coins for the troops. We have been fortunate enough to work closely with the New York Knicks and Rangers to create similar coins. We’ve even been able to create coins for a program the Tampa Bay Lightning helped sponsor.
They all have their own ways of designing coins and awarding coins to soldiers and veterans, but the most important thing is for the coins to be a meaningful symbol of gratitude and support. Nate McMillan, the Pacers’ head coach, said, “I’m more interested in us understanding what this is really about, and not just a photo shoot. This is serious. We use terms like ‘battle’ and ‘fight’ and ‘we’re going to war’ — these people, what they do, when they say that, that’s for real.”
In the military, the challenge coin tradition is all about awarding coins to teammates as a symbol of acceptance and belonging. When an organization like the Pacers, Knicks or Rangers offer custom coins to soldiers, it’s a way of welcoming them to the team. The coins become a symbol of understanding and respect for a soldier’s efforts.
Charles Ridings, the executive director of the USO in Indiana put it best when he said that the Pacers’ challenge coins are meant to boost morale and keep people going.
It’s important for our military folks to understand that they’re part of the community and the community appreciates everything they do. When there’s an opportunity to create that bond between a military person and the things they love — their family, their community, their country — they’ll be able to to take that memory with them as they separate.
Giving Back to the Community With Custom Coins
Hoops for Troops is just one part of what makes the NBA Cares organization so special. Players, coaches and fans all work together in support of education, youth and family development and health-related causes all across the country. We are proud to have created custom coins that help different organizations fundraise for cancer research and autism awareness, spread the word on important social issues and make a difference in the lives of our country’s soldiers.
Each coin has personal value and is perfect for preserving memories from incredible events like Hoops for Troops or any other kind of recognition ceremony. What makes the Pacers coins, and other challenge coins around the league, so special is how they extend a hand of welcome to our nation’s heroes in a meaningful way that offers support, encouragement and gratitude for their service.