TORONTO — Hallie Rodney was determined to make her bat mitzvah a slam dunk. The 12-year-old competitive basketball player didn’t just want to do that with a big party, she wanted to make a real difference.
“I think that it’s really important to give back to people who have less than us,” said Hallie, who raised more than $3,000 through a basketball tournament she organized as an “honourable baller” with Hoops 4 Israel.
Hoops 4 Israel works with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to help the vulnerable communities living in Bat Yam, Israel, and in Toronto. This year, the funds are going toward four programs that help underprivileged Jewish youths and communities: the Zipori Educational Warm House, Living Bridge Partnership, Centre Camp Scholarship Fund and JCC Chai Sports Scholarship Fund.
The June 17 tournament in Thornhill, Ont., brought out 34 children who played to the sounds of Sole Power DJ entertainment. Federation provided giveaway bags for the children, B’nai Brith donated trophies, and Hallie’s grandparents helped to organize the tournament and referee the games.
“I wanted to make it fun,” Hallie said of the idea to raise money through sports. She far exceeded her initial goal of raising $2,500. “I feel like I’ve made a difference,” she said.
For Hallie’s parents, Jordan and Julie, it was important that her bat mitzvah be about the Jewish value of tzedakah. They were thrilled that Hallie took the initiative to fundraise for an important cause. “She really loves it, she wants to be doing it,” her mother said. “We’re really proud that she’s a role model for other kids.”
Hallie, the eldest of three kids, hopes that both her friends and her younger siblings, Mitchell, 9, and Layla, 5, will be inspired to contribute to the Jewish community as well. In fact, Mitchell is already in awe of his big sister’s example. “I’m really proud of my sister,” he told The CJN in a phone interview.
“I 100 per cent hope that my friends will follow,” Hallie said, adding that she feels it’s very important “to give back to our community.”
Hallie and her family plan to make the fundraising basketball tournament an annual event and to grow it in the coming years.
For the bat mitzvah girl, this tournament was not just an opportunity to raise money for charity, but also a learning experience about what can be done when people work together for an important cause. She said: “If everyone pitches in a little bit, then we can make a huge impact on the world.”