Laura Long of Carmel saw her dream of starting a basketball program in the Democratic Republic of Congo come true this summer.
It all began in 2012 when she adopted her son, Crosby, who was a year old at the time, from the DRC. As a physician assistant for Ascension St. Vincent, she had been volunteering in the African nation as a medical evaluator for the Fishers-based Global Orphan Foundation for two years before the adoption.
GOF is passionate about providing orphan care and placing them in loving families, according to the organization. But in 2015, international adoptions were no longer permitted from the DRC, so GOF changed its focus and built an orphanage called Bolingo Village near the capital city of Kinshasa.
Long supported GOF as it built the orphanage but didn’t want her efforts to end there.
“We wanted to give something to the orphanage in honor of our family,” she said. “We couldn’t bring all the kids here that needed a home. Maybe we could bring some activities from Indiana to the Congo.”
So, she began to envision a basketball program. At about the same time, Dikembe Mutombo, a retired NBA player from the DRC, was one of many investors supporting the formation of the Basketball Africa League.
Although the Basketball Africa League isn’t directly involved in the project at Bolingo Village, Long said the timing was perfect.
“They’re trying to make basketball more popular in Africa,” Long said. “So, it just worked out.”
In 2021 and 2022 Long held a fundraiser called Basketball for Bolingo, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Funds went toward building a basketball court at Bolingo Village.
“The first fundraiser, I raised half of the money,” Long said. “It was only enough to build half the court.”
The second fundraiser raised enough to finish the court.
“What makes me so proud of this basketball court was how the people of Carmel came together and showed up to support my vision of sharing the sport of basketball and all the joy it has brought to our family,” Long said.
Carmel resident Steve Edwards said his family helped Long with the fundraiser. He met Long through coaching her son, Brodey, in basketball.
“My entire family grew up in Carmel and basketball has always been part of it,” Edwards said.
In July, Long and her family traveled to Bolingo Village to celebrate the completion of the court. They took basketball equipment to the orphanage and arranged for an on-site basketball clinic. The children of Bolingo Village received jerseys provided by the Carmel Dads’ Club that sport the Indiana Pacers’ logo.
With the basketball court complete, Long plans to continue growing the program. She hopes the children at Bolingo Village can use the court to learn how to play the sport and eventually invite other children to join.
“I would love to take groups of people over there to help run some camps for them,” Long said.
A love for the game
Laura Long is a physician assistant at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis. She enjoys celebrating all holidays, running and playing yard games, such as cornhole. She studied biology at Indiana University and studied to become a physician assistant at Butler University.
She’s the mother of two boys, Brodey, 15, and Crosby, 12. Brodey had always been a big basketball fan, which led to Long becoming a fan as well. When Bolingo Village was built, she believed a basketball court would be something special to build in the place where Crosby was born.
The basketball court in a way symbolizes the Long family, according to Long. It shows their passion for the sport and extends Long’s love to the children of Bolingo Village, introducing them to a new activity they can enjoy playing together.
“I feel very proud that we could make this happen,” Long said. “I’m hopeful that it can grow.”