Trying to play for a cause

I’ve always been an athletic person. I come from a sports-oriented family that played baseball and basketball religiously throughout their entire lives. My father was an all-state pitcher and my aunt and uncle were stellar basketball players turned coaches.

I received the baseball gene. Apparently the basketball gene skipped a generation.

On Saturday afternoon, I, along with 18 other members of the community, took part in the ninth annual Game of Hope Classic charity basketball game at Youngstown State University. The game is an event put on by The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, a local organization that raises money for chronically and terminally ill children.

When I was originally asked to participate, I reminded the founder of the Hope Foundation, Tony Spano, that the last time I played on an organized basketball team was in fifth grade. That was 20 years ago.

There was a reason I didn’t make it to sixth grade – I just wasn’t that good. During one game, I scored two points for the other team as I shot at the wrong basket and made it. That also was the reason that during the four years of my high school career, I was on the sideline in a cheerleading uniform.

However, Spano somehow persuaded me to play – reminding me that it was for the kids. So, out of the name of charity, I put on some rainbow-colored socks and tried to play basketball – tried being the key word.

I touched the ball twice. I passed it once and traveled once (I got away with it). I didn’t take a shot and I don’t even think I actually dribbled the ball. It was probably better for my team, even though we were on the losing end.

So, in the span of the day, I took (and missed) a lot of practice shots, danced on the court to the pregame music, and attempted to play basketball.

Was I the weakest link on my team? Probably. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat – because after all, it’s for the kids.

The Hope Foundation – a completely volunteer-based organization – hosts three other events during the year to raise money for area children. The organization then distributes grants to children and families to better aid their lives.

Organizations like this are few and far between – a local entity, keeping money locally, helping local children. To be a part of something like the Game of Hope, knowing I did my part, is a rewarding feeling that is one of the benefits of my job – having opportunities to give back.

I contemplated retirement after Saturday’s performance. My legs were telling me I had no business running on a basketball court and it was probably for the best. However, my uncle told me that it was just my rookie season, and that I’d be better next year.

And I will be, because it is for the kids. And I can’t let them down.