John Carson said replacing the basketball courts at the was a community effort at its best.
Parents, neighbors, businesses and children of all ages worked together to raise money and solicit services for a big project that took a mere few months to accomplish – from start to finish.
“The work on the courts began the second week of August and was finished on Sept. 6, the day before school started,” said Carson who initiated the project.
“It was a very good example of why not to create bureaucracy where there doesn’t have to be any,” he said.
A large project such as re-doing the courts certainly needed oversight he believes but, to get people to participate, an endeavor cannot be burdensome as it might be if stalled with red tape.
“This was to replace something that was already there so there was no push-back – only consensus,” Carson said. “It was a five-month project that, if bogged down, I wouldn’t have done it nor would other people have participated.”
Instead, what was once a scene of dilapidated courts is now a place where children congregate and play basketball on week and weekend days, something Carson said is a sight that is the best part of the project for him.
Joey’s Park was inspiration
The courts were in horrible condition, Carson said, with broken and missing rims as well as cracked asphalt,
“As my kids grow older, they are getting past using Joey’s Park,” he said of his 11-year-old son and twin nine-year-old girls.
All three are athletic, perhaps following in their father’s footsteps as a coach for Belmont youth soccer, baseball and basketball. So Carson firmly thought they, and other children who attend the school and live in town, need another destination for playing and participating in sports games once they outgrow the joy of being at Joey’s Park at the Winn Brook School.
A short time before be began organizing the project for the basketball courts, Carson met Joe and Kathy O’Donnell who created Joey’s Park in honor of their late son.
Feeding off the inspiration of what the O’Donnells provided for Belmont’s young children, he said in April he began talking to a few friends about organizing the Winn Brook Basketball Courts. A number of people enthusiastically joined Carson and, late in the spring, the WBBC project was born.
In particular, he thanks Steve Christo, Alex Corbett, Jeff Corrigan, Mike Crowley, John Federico and Dan McLaughlin – the WBBC team who all have children attending Winn Brook or are graduates who provided advice, support and ideas for fundraising efforts.
That group of men, along with the help of friends and neighbors, organized several fundraisers. A golf tournament was held in May at the Hopkinton Country Club that generated nearly $5,000 and had 26 participants.
The brainchild of Jeff Corrigan, “Winn Brook Hoops It Up” occurred in June where students from grades 3-5 (currently attending Winn Brook or graduates) participated in basketball contests such as free throws, dribbling and “Around the World.”
Each participant needed to collect $100 in sponsorships from neighbors, friends, family members and maybe even contributed from their own bank accounts in order to compete. That event raised over $9,000 and included over 45 boys and girls.
“Hoops It Up was a way to engage children in old-fashioned fundraising where they needed to call friends and family like we used to do when we were young,” Carson said. “They had to learn how to engage with people and explain a cause.”
It was wonderful, he said, for the young people to see the fruits of their labor when the grand opening of the courts was held on Sunday, Oct. 2.
The third effort the group completed was reaching out to the business community who responded energetically with donations of money, labor, and in some cases materials. The families and business that donated substantially with donations of $1,000 or more in cash or services will be honored with the company’s name inscribed in a six foot by two foot piece of granite which is scheduled to by completed by Dennis Rocha from Rocha Construction by the end of this week with Brown & Hickey Funeral Home donating the granite and coordinating the engraving.
In total local businesses, families, and all the fundraising combines, donated $35,000 in cash and $15,000 in services.
For that generosity, Carson thanks a number of businesses including Belmont Savings Bank, Coldwell Banker Belmont, Cambridge Medical Supply, Herb Connolly Automotive Group, Cambridge Savings Bank, Desco Developers, Rojas Design, Champion Sporting Goods, Carlmont Lock, James W. Flett Company, Frank and Michael French from F.E. Construction, Tino Bonanno Masonry, Dave Marchie Paving, M.L. Fence, and Roma Tile.
A gift to the town
When presenting this gift to the School Board, Carson mentioned how appreciative the WBBC team was for the support from the Belmont schools that included Fred Domenici, Supervisor of School Maintenance; Janet Carey, Winn Brook Principal; and Tony DiCologero, Director of Business, Finance and Operation.
Town officials kept the red tape to a minimum for the grassroots effort, Carson said, and all the local businesses, residents and children who helped demonstrated one collective voice can make a difference in these difficult economic times.
For the grand opening of the courts on Oct. 2, the WBBC conducted clinics for current and former students of the school in grades K-6.
Former coaches Paula Christofori and Paul Lyons – along with Jeff Corrigan and Steve Christo – directed the young players.
In order to participate in the clinics, the children had to donate at least $10 to go toward buying 12 basketballs each for the Kennedy Longfellow School in Cambridge and the KIPP New Orleans School.
The week of Oct. 10, former Belmont High School Hall of Famer Kelly (Flavin) Rowan delivered the basketballs to Kennedy Longfellow where she works and the other 12 balls were shipped to New Orleans.
“It was an added opportunity for the children to give back – one more time,” said Carson. “The kids are having a blast on the new courts and I love how appreciative they are of them. These courts are for this generation and hopefully for many more to come.