LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Hoops for Hope

LSU Heath New Orleans Resident Physicians Donate Basketalls and Goals to NOLA Youth During COVID-19 Pandemic

basketball and goal recipient

Two LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine residents, along with a medical student at Brown University, founded the Drive and Dish Foundation. It’s a non-profit raising funds to buy and deliver basketballs and goals to New Orleans youth to encourage safe recreation and play during COVID-19.

“Growing up, playing sports was more than a hobby; it was an opportunity to mentally decompress and to escape my reality,” says Michael Okoronkwo, MD, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine Class of 2019 and Drive and Dish Founder. “This brought me closer to personal peace and purpose. As Covid-19 has impacted all of us, I couldn’t help but think of the New Orleans area youth who didn’t have access to these benefits of sports activity because of COVID-19. This was my inspiration for creating Drive and Dish.”

In the safety of their own driveways or backyards, New Orleans youth can remain physically and mentally well with the donated equipment.

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“As lifelong New Orleans residents, former athletes, and physicians, we understand the impact that sport has on both physical and mental health,” says Keyana F. Varnado, MD, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine Class of 2019 and Drive and Dish Founder. “As LSU Health New Orleans medical students serving as leaders of LSU Tiger Cubs and LSU Student National Medical Association (SNMA) via the school’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, we learned firsthand that community engagement and medicine go hand in hand. We are grateful for the leadership, resilience, and innovation we have seen throughout the global crisis of COVID-19, and we are using Drive and Dish to further support our NOLA community and one of its most important populations.”

Why call it Drive and Dish?

Michael and Keyana
“Drive and Dish are popular terms in basketball lingo and necessary actions to score/make a goal,” explains Dr. Varnado, who is now a resident in LSU Health New Orleans’ Surgery Residency Program. “For us, each time we have the opportunity to deliver a goal to a kid or family, we score! In the setting of COVID-19 we are ‘driving’ and ‘dishing’ out goals to youth and families around New Orleans because it’s not safe to host mass pickups. These two elements gave us the inspiration to name our campaign Drive and Dish!”
making a delivery
The young doctors in training delivered seven goals during their first week of fundraising. One of them was to a family who recently had their basketball goal stolen and couldn’t afford another one.

“The kids have been excited, and the parents/caregivers have expressed how grateful they are,” Varnado says. “Yesterday, I called a family to alert them that they would receive a goal, and you could just hear the change in their voices. Some of these families wanted basketball goals even before COVID-19, but their value is certainly even greater now that our access to safe recreational spaces is limited.”

“It was such a blessing and a fulfilling experience to bring joy to families to help them get through this difficult time,” says Stephen Igwe, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine Class of 2022 and Drive and Dish volunteer. “My greatest reward was seeing the broad smiles on the faces on each family that received the basketball and goal. I am inspired by my colleagues’ leadership and the resilience of the people of New Orleans.”

Requests shot up after Mayor LaToya Cantrell shared the Dish and Drive campaign on her social media channels.

“Yesterday, we received a message from a mother whose son has a psychiatric diagnosis and before COVID-19 played basketball at local parks as a coping mechanism,” says Varnado. “The personal experiences of these families highlight the importance of Drive and Dish and motivate us to keep raising awareness.”
The Drive and Dish volunteers are also motivated to keep raising funds to fulfill more requests. Each goal costs about $80. They have been purchasing the equipment from local stores and businesses.

Dr. Okoronkwo, who is transitioning from the LSU Health New Orleans internal Medicine Residency Program to the LSU Health New Orleans Emergency Medicine Residency Program July 1, says, “I know firsthand the value sports provides as a tool of overall wellness for youth. We want to fulfill every goal request we receive, but we need the support of independent donors, community organizations, and governmental partners to complete this goal.”

If you would like to support Drive and Dish, you can donate via GoFundMe at, Venmo: @driveanddish, or CashApp: $driveanddish. Visit the Drive and Dish website at to learn how to receive a basketball goal.
recipient family