More than 100 players from across the GTA, as well as from Dundas and Hamilton, got together recently at the Kimel Family Education Centre in Vaughan, Ont., to shoot hoops and raise money for Israelis living in poverty.
Hosted by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Community Connect, the Hoops 4 Israel (H4I) event raised $45,000 for indigent and unemployed residents of Bat Yam – Israel’s fastest growing Ethiopian community where 40 per cent of youth are considered at-risk.
Since 2007, H4I has raised more than $550,000 and directly enhanced the lives of hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis through sports and educational programs.
This year, participants were divided into 18 male teams and six female squads. In addition to the main 3-on-3 competition, there was a free throw challenge for fans to win great prizes.
Ashley Kochman, Lesley Suchter, Amy Wilchesky, Alex Baker and Laura Anava were crowned women’s champions. Mateusz Zio, Igor Lebov, Jacob Anidjar and Isaac Maresky were tops among the men.
In 2013, the H4I committee took their event to the next level, seeking not only to benefit Israeli children but local Torontonians as well, said Jessica Taylor, manager of innovative initiatives at Community Connect.
“The Hoops 4 Israel team has begun to ‘Live the Cause’ as we create opportunities for young adults to get involved directly in programming for children in our community,” she said.
H4I was able to form a partnership with JCC Chai Sports, and together they hosted two free basketball workshops that brought together more than 60 kids in grades 1 through 8 and 20 volunteers.
“At Hoops 4 Israel, our cause is kids,” said Lisa Winberg, one of the H4I committee members. “We wanted to come up with a Live the Cause event that would allow the young professionals involved in H4I to interact and engage with children in a meaningful way.”
She said Live the Cause is important “because it is a way for young professionals to feel personally connected to the cause. It can be hard to feel a bond with a child thousands of miles away, so we sought to build this connection locally.”
The basketball clinics were promoted through the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services, Jewish Family & Child and Chai Lifeline in order to reach kids who may not otherwise be able to participate in such recreational programs.
“By connecting volunteers with kids in our local community, we are bringing the spirit of Hoops 4 Israel to life and ensuring that the passion for basketball and making a difference continues to grow,” Winberg said.
Aside from hosting the tournament, Community Connect volunteers also ran a stem cell and bone marrow drive at the venue. Players and spectators were encouraged to get a simple cheek swab to see if they could be potential donors.
The Israeli group Hadag Nahash provided musical entertainment and a local dance troupe put on a special cheerleading break.
For more information, visit www.hoops4israel.com.