The meaning behind Hoopfest and the value it holds to one little girl

Each summer, hundreds of thousands of people come together to celebrate Hoopfest.

It’s known for being the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, but what makes Hoopfest particularly special isn’t the size of the event, but rather, the people who make it that way. At Hoopfest, it doesn’t matter how old you are, how big you are, or how talented you are.

That said, at just 4 years old, Rowan Horton is pretty talented.

Rowan was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that’s caused by the spine and spinal cord not forming properly. When it comes to Hoopfest, though, that spina bifida takes a back seat to one thing: Rowan having fun.

“She gets to see all these kids she doesn’t see every weekend, and in chairs, as well, so she gets to meet new people and friends,” said Glen Horton, Rowan’s father.

Horton says Rowan has been in a wheelchair for about three years now. This is her third Hoopfest, and Horton says the event is special for his daughter to participate in.

“It means a lot, just obviously for the social aspect of it for her, getting to see she’s not the only one in a wheelchair,” said Horton, “so it helps her out to see she’s not alone.”

Because, in the end, that’s what Hoopfest is all about.

“You don’t get to 6,000 plus teams and 24,000 plus athletes with elite athletes,” said Matt Santangelo, executive director of Spokane Hoopfest Association. “You get them with people that just love to come out and play the game and be with their buddies and have this reunion family environment. That’s what Hoopfest is about.”

Catch up on the day’s news and look ahead to tomorrow by signing up for the Daily Local email newsletter from KXLY4. Headlines, events, and staff picks every weeknight at 8 p.m. Sign up HERE to get your news on the D.L.