E.B. Frink Middle School turned students’ enthusiasm for basketball into a big donation to the American Heart Association through a first-time event aptly called Hoop Fest.
“The kids love basketball,” Michelle Hilling, Frink physical education teacher and HoopFest organizer, said. “We hadn’t done anything for the Heart Association in a while, so I thought maybe this would work.”
It was nothing but net.
Six teams of at least six players formed for the five-on-five round-robin tournament played May 12. Each player contributed $10 to play and spectators paid at the door the same as they would for a school basketball game — $4 for adults and $2 for students. That money, plus more collected through the sale of concessions and from donations, totaled a whopping $750.
“Hope Fest was a such huge success,” Hilling said after the three-hour event ended.
The championship title went to a team that called itself Black Magic, one of three teams of older students getting “showcased” in front of varsity coaches. The team that had the most crowd support, however, might have been FMS Ladies, the only team of girls in the tournament and a team that made up in enthusiasm and grit what they might have lacked in skill.
“We three are in band together,” sixth-grader Ja’Kayla Arrington said, indicating half her team. “We were asking in band class who wanted to do it.”
Friends of friends filled out the team, apparently motivated as much by the opportunity to make a stand for gender equality than by a love – or, in a few cases, even a familiarity – with basketball. “Being girls,” Ja’Kayla said, “the guys think we have no power. That’s not fair.”
The battle of the sexes aside, Hoop Fest turned out to be a galvanizing event, according to Hilling, who’s taught at Frink for five years. Fellow PE teachers Chris McPhail and Garrett Blackburn served as referees. Jessica Kepler, Sandy Crews and Erica Jusko pitched in from the Frink faculty and staff.
“I thought it was really cool that parents volunteered their time as coaches for these kids,” Hilling said.
And, of course, the students made it happen. “They were really excited to have a chance to help the American Heart Association out,” Hilling said. “It was great seeing them put together these teams and be part of this competition.”
Each year, LCPS elementary and middle schools raise in excess of $10,000 for the American Heart Association through school-based events like Hoop Fest and Jump Rope for Hearts. The money goes for research in heart disease and treatments that research makes possible.