Thursday, Feb. 18, was Day 100 of Hoops For Heroes, and thanks to old friend Dan Sylvester, we marked the milestone with his Franklin junior high boys’ basketball team and a few hundred of their fifth- through eighth-grade pals at Franklin Middle School.
I know Dan, a former 1,000-point scorer at Franklin High who is now the junior high coach and an eighth-grade math teacher at the school, from his days coaching the Franklin varsity girls when I wrote for the Concord Monitor sports department. Great coach. Even better guy. A couple months ago, he heard about HFH and got in touch, set up an assembly at the school, and then … well, yesterday arrived.
And it couldn’t have been a better event. The first thing I should point out is that this is middle school, and as I recall from 30 or so years ago, the middle school era is not what would be considered the quiet years. Yet this group of 300 or 400 couldn’t have possibly been a better audience. Hats off to them, and to Principal Jim Friel and his faculty and staff for doing an amazing job managing the event.
It started with a short presentation by the Franklin VFW Ladies Auxiliary, who were represented by Gloria Sylvester (Dan’s mom), President Tammy Belfair and Past State President Nancy Lilly. The Auxiliary presented Hoops For Heroes with a check for $100, and Ms. Belfair hung a Solders’ Angels necklace around my neck, with these words: “May no soldier go unloved. May no soldier walk alone. May no soldier be forgotten, Until they all come home.” My most heartfelt thank you to Tammy, Nancy and Gloria.
I then said a few words about Hoops For Heroes and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and then, with the scoreboard clock running down from 5:00 and three members of the junior high team helping out on the rebounding end, we made 100 foul shots … with 30 or so seconds to spare. Wasn’t the best shooting performance, but the rebounding was absolutely top shelf.
Next, Dan and his team presented the results of a fundraiser the team had done … one of those monster, Happy Gilmore checks in the amount of $571 to Hoops For Heroes (I’ve always thought it would be exciting to take one of those to the bank teller, but even more so to try to get one into the drawer of the drive-through.). It was the largest single donation received by Hoops For Heroes yet, and it really speaks to an incredible effort on the part of Dan, his team and the Franklin community.
Then we did a question and answer session that went 15 minutes or so but I’d have loved to do all afternoon. Again, this was just a wonderful group of kids, and it was exciting to be engaged with them.
After the 2 p.m. dismissal (during which I was dubbed “Diggety Dave” by one of the students … and I hope it sticks), we got to the business of the day’s shooting (and a brief interview with the Laconia Citizen), and once again the team stepped up. Seventeen hundred more gave us a total of 1,800 Franklin foul shots. I would later make it to the gym for an additional 200 and a nice round 2,000 for the day, bringing the HFH total to 141,407 down, 858,593 to go to 1 million.
Again, many thanks to everyone who made the day happen. There couldn’t have been a better way to mark 100 days than with Dillon, Craig, Ernie, Isais, Zack, Alek, Baltaz, Lucas and Frank … and Coach Sly. I hope to see you guys again soon.