Just in time for March Madness, the 12 Oaks Foundation will host its Third Annual Hoops for Hope tournament March 16 and 17 at Grayslake North High School.
Each spring the tournament draws more than 500 basketball players and 100 teams to the court for some 3-on-3 action. Open to all players from fourth-graders through adults, the event raises funds to help children in families coping with cancer and financial hardships.
New this year, the friendly competition at Hoops for Hope will also bring about some real bloodshed—off the court, that is. The organizers have teamed up with LifeSource to host a Matt Hupp Memorial Blood Drive on-site during the first day of the tournament, March 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To donate blood, fans and players age 16 and older should call 877-543-3768 in advance to schedule an appointment, and bring two forms of identification to the tournament. Any 16-year-old donor needs a parental consent form, available on the LifeSource website. Walk-ins are also accepted.
The blood drive is named after the oldest son of Grayslake residents Steve and Julie Hupp, the founders of 12 Oaks. Matt Hupp lost his battle with a rare form of cancer called Birkitt’s Lymphoma in 2009, at age 13. During his illness, Matt relied on help from many different donors for both blood and platelet transfusions. The upcoming blood drive serves as a way for the Hupp family to honor those donors and also return the gift.
“Blood isn’t something that can ever be manufactured; It’s a very special and unique gift,” said Marie Pinetti, LifeSource business development representative.
“We feel honored to be involved in the Matt Hupp blood drive because it helps put a face to the kind of work we do every day.”
Donors see their blood isn’t only going into a bag. It’s going to help a real person like Matt Hupp. Pinetti said each donation actually has the potential to help save the lives of three people because every blood unit is divided into red blood cells, platelets and plasma, separate components used to treat separate conditions.
After witnessing Matt’s fight against cancer, the Hupp family decided to create a foundation that could assist other families suffering under similar circumstances. Funds raised through Hoops for Hope go to help cover fees for sports and other activities for children in families dealing with a long-term illness.
In addition to awarding funds to individual families, 12 Oaks also sponsors summer and sports camps offered through organizations like Children’s Oncology Services, Inc.
The name 12 Oaks comes from the number Matt always chose for his jersey, regardless what sport he was playing. Steve Hupp said he liked the idea of an oak because it’s the Illinois state tree, and like Matt’s memory, strong and enduring.
“Hoops for Hope is at its core about Matt Hupp,” said Jim Fitzgerald, one of the event organizers. “But I also believe it’s grown into an event the whole community looks forward to. People stick around for hours, long after their player finishes, just to hang out and watch.”
Interest in the event continues to grow, he said, with more players and more teams signing up every year. No matter how big the turnout, Fitzgerald said the crowd always manages to keep the competition in perspective.
“Even at the Sunday double-elimination, it’s an all-out friendly event,” said Fitzgerald. “Players aren’t just there for the basketball. They come because they want to support the charity. They believe in 12 Oaks.”
Running an event the size of Hoops for Hope requires a sizable number of volunteers. Volunteer coordinator Michelle Ptasienski recruits about 120 volunteers to assist with court supervision, concessions and other duties during the two-day tournament.
To volunteer to work a shift, email Ptasienski at email@example.com.
The entry fee is $35 for youths ($40 after March 1) and $40 for adults. Each registration comes with a 12 Oaks reversible mesh jersey and the chance to win prizes in a 3-point shooting contest and skills competition.
To register or for more details including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.12oaksfoundation.org.
Submitted by the 12 Oaks Foundation