“I hope I don’t have a heart attack out there,” remarked Richard Mazur, Executive Director of North Brooklyn Development Corporation (NBDC), as he predicted the outcome of the basketball tournament he was about to compete in. “I’m five-foot six, not six-foot five, not really basketball player material. So I’m the perfect choice for this [competition].”
Mazur and others playing ball at the Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary church’s gym last Saturday, June 30th, may not have been harboring NBA aspirations. However, they did have something else on the line—a $1,200 check, that if won, would be donated to a local charity.
This was the Williamsburg Invitational Neighborhood (WIN) Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. Hoops for Charity. Created by Churches United For Fair Housing (CUFFH), the tournament brings together many North Brooklyn charities to compete on the court for a chance to win.
“We’ve got every major non-profit in Williamsburg [competing] this year, so it’s a big deal,” said Rob Solano, Executive Director of CUFFH. “Each team puts in $100, then the winner takes the whole check. They can use it for their own charity, or they can donate it to another charity of their choice.”
The organizations competing included: CUFFH Advisory Board, CUFFH Youth, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT) Williamsburg, Los Sures, Vernon Avenue Project (VAP), El Puente, and St. Nicks Alliance. It was quite an eclectic group, though the non-profits serve low to moderate-income North Brooklynites.
“The non-profits bring all of their staff, including executive directors, to compete,” said Solano. “These people work with each other all year, so this gives them a chance to come together and hang out. And it’s a cool way for charities to get to know each other.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” agreed Mazur. “But it’s gonna be tough! My team has the highest age range. I’ve got almost forty years on some of these other kids [competing].”
Despite their varying ages and athleticism, the players clearly had a great time, dribbling and lunging across the court as teammates cheered from the sidelines. The lively competition certainly took the dryness out of fundraising! “It’s a cool, unique way to raise money,” Solano explained. “We especially wanted to do this during the summer, when fundraising’s slow.”
“Everyone gets together once a year to battle it out, but it’s all in good fun,” added Bruno Daniel, who was playing on CUFFH’s Advisory Board team. “This is our third year doing it, and VAP won both times. We’re anxious to beat them this year!”
CUFFH ended up going toe to toe with VAP in the finals. The game was close, but VAP emerged once more as champions, keeping their winning streak intact and snagging the check. VAP is an organization that mentors youths from Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“So they get bragging rights for the entire year!” Solano declared. “They’re the champions of Williamsburg. They also get a trophy, which they can keep on their desk for that year.”
All in all, the event accomplished many goals. First, it allowed nonprofits a chance to fundraise. It also inspired a spirit of fellowship among staff members as they engaged in friendly competition with other charities. “There’s gonna be lots of trash talking,” Mazur had joked before the game commenced. “We’ll be playing more with our mouths than our bodies. But afterwards we all go out to get a beer and cheer for the winners!”
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