Marc McAvoy, who is a behavioral specialist at Claggett Creek Middle School, has been working in the Salem-Keizer School District for nearly three decades.

During that time McAvoy has also coached a number of different sports in the Keizer community — he currently is the freshman boys basketball coach and the boys varsity tennis coach at McNary High School.

But this season, he felt a special connection with his basketball squad.

“This year’s group was unique in the sense that they were all great friends and they all really liked each other,” McAvoy said. “They’re a group that would get knocked off their feet and would get up and try even harder.”

“I just had a group of kids that were phenomenal.”

And this summer, McAvoy is taking many of those kids on a trip that goes way beyond the sport of basketball. 

On June 29, McAvoy and 10 of his players will be heading to the Dominican Republic in partnership with SCORE International — which is a non-profit evangelistic organization — to bring hope to underprivileged youth in the country, with basketball being one of the primary forms of outreach. This trip is independently funded and no way connected with McNary High or their boys basketball program.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I’m glad that I get the chance to go. It’s cool to go help people on the other side of the world,” McNary freshman Grant Goesch said. 

“We all work together well and we have good team chemistry.”

McAvoy has been involved with SCORE International for many years and has gone on mission trips with close to a dozen organizations. But this is the first time he has taken a trip with his players.

“Quite frankly, I was never planning on taking a freshmen group to do something like this. But this group is mature beyond their years,” McAvoy said. “I feel like the Lord really put this on my path.”

During the trip, the Keizer crew will be going to a number of different cities to host basketball clinics, as well as provide food and prayer to people in poverty. 

They also plan attending multiple orphanages to spend time with kids.

“We’re definitely excited, but also a little bit nervous,” McNary freshman Jaden Rhines said. “But we recognize how special this is and how not everyone gets this opportunity.” 

McAvoy played basketball for three years at Multnomah University and played his final collegiate season at Warner Pacific. 

McAvoy first gained an interest in the mission field while attending Multnomah. That interest intensified when he got the opportunity to play basketball internationally for four years.

“For these kids to be able to do something like this is huge for expanding their horizons,” McAvoy said. “It will get them out of Keizer and they are going to see poverty. They are going to see people in great need and they are going to help them.”

“They also will be bringing hope to people, which isn’t just playing basketball with them. We want to make a difference in people’s lives that is eternal.”

The majority of the kids going on the trip go the Christian churches in the Salem-Keizer area and plan to share their faith with the people of the Dominican Republic. 

“This group is more outspoken about their faith then any team I’ve had,” McAvoy said. 

The trip will cost around $2,000 per student. While there are parents are financially supporting a number of the kids, the group is also fundraising money on their own and visiting local businesses that would be interested in financially supporting them.

So far, Cascade Flooring, Dennis Boat Shop, Hurst Automotive, PT Northwest, Nancy Jo’s Burgers, Joe Guerra with State Farm Insurance and Freeman Motors have all stepped up to support this trip. 

“We want businesses to recognize our vision to build a stronger community here at home by reaching out to people around the world,” McAvoy said. “

If you would like to donate to this trip, you can contact McAvoy at 503-393-7558. You can also donate on the SCORE International website (scoreintl.org) by filling out the following boxes. 

Travel Group Name: SWAT Team

Trip Country: Dominican Republic

Trip Dates: June 29-July 6

The deadline is May 16.