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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

AND1 helps St. Francis de Sales Summer Classic get Up & Running

I'm very happy to have played a small role in helping my fellow St. John's University alum, Terence Mullin, and his co-parishioners of St. Francis de Sales (Belle Harbor - Rockaway) as they continue the daunting rebuilding process at the (Sandy) storm-ravaged school and surrounding hoops courts at the Rockaway Peninsula church.

St. Francis is one of those "legendary" places in NYC and Long Island basketball lore.  Not unlike the basketball court at West 4th Street (near my first NYC apartment on Washington) , Rucker Park or many of the others, St. Francis was a place where kids from all around the Rockaways, Brooklyn and Long Beach, (LI) would congregate for some of the best summer hoops pick-up games. From Julius Dr J Erving to Brian Winters to Mel Davis to Chris Mullin to Mark Jackson to Walter Berry and so on... the courts were the playground for everyone, esepcially the NYC playground legends.

All the while, the parish was running a summer camp for kids (Grades 3-8).

That's where we've been trying to help and the AND1 basketball shoe and apparel company stepped right up to assist in a VERY big way.

Here is a video of the story of St. Francis:

And, here is a NY Post story about the efforts of And1 to assist.  There will be more to come as the camp opens (July 15th).

City game brings hope to many

Basketball, the city game, has always struck me as being a cathartic sport. The drumming beat of a basketball being dribbled. The calming swish of a basketball licking the nets.

A player can lose himself for hours in a school yard — just him, his ball and his dreams.

Sometimes dreams get wrecked and there’s nothing we can do about it. A knee gets blown out. A 6-foot-3 high school power forward doesn’t have another growth spurt. Only the good Lord determines who among us will be blessed with talent and drive to make a dream come true.

A lot of people’s faith were shaken in late October when Hurricane Sandy tore through the metropolitan area. There were deaths. There was destruction. But never did I see the death of hope.

I saw hope at places such as Saint Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor, one of the hardest hit areas. The parish and school became the epicenter of relief efforts on the Rockaway Peninsula.

Food, clothing and flashlights poured in, love, compassion and support flowed out. Monsignor John Brown slept in a classroom on several nights with displaced families. The word, “No,” was never uttered at the neighborhood school on Beach 129th Street.

As the days and weeks went by, as debris was cleared, as homes were either torn down or attempts to rebuild began, St. Francis de Sales tried to return to some semblance of normalcy.

The basketball court in the gym, which was badly damaged after being used as a supply center/shelter was covered by insurance and restored. But the outdoor courts, the uniforms, the socks were a total loss.

Those losses might sound trivial compared to the loss of life and home, but you have to understand what basketball means in Belle Harbor and Breezy Point. Every summer for the past 25 years, the St. Francis de Sales Summer Classic has become the Rockaway Peninsula’s focal point for residents.

On any given night hundreds of families gather to talk about their kids, their community, their jobs, their heartbreaks and their celebrations. The Summer Classic, which runs from mid-June to mid-August and provides organized ball for second-graders to "grey beards," is the city version of summer camp.
“It’s kind of the focus and backbone of the community,’’ former St. John’s player Terence Mullin told The Post. “Every player down here either plays hoops and/or surfs. That’s what Rockaway is. I mean you look around the neighborhood, there’s four hoops, five hoops on every single street.’’

Players from Brooklyn, The Bronx, Westchester and other neighborhoods in Queens flock to St. Francis de Sales during the summer. Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, Armond Hill, Kenny Anderson, Ernie Grunfeld are among the hundreds of NBA players that made this their summer home.

There might not be a home this summer. The four outdoor courts were torn up by the storm and the triage center it was used for. The rims hang sideways. The fence is Swiss cheese.

But there is hope. Terence bumped into Terry Lyons, another St. John’s grad and former NBA media relations guru during a 12-12-12 benefit at a local watering hole, and the two chatted about the storm’s devastation.

Lyons thought Mullin still lived in Brooklyn. He was blown away by Mullin’s story of what had happened at St. Francis de Sales.

“I told him we’d been hit pretty bad and he said, ‘We’re going to get the courts fixed,’ ’’ said Mullin. “The next day he calls me and says 'I think we have ‘AND1’ on board. It was amazing.'’’

AND1, the sneaker and apparel company that turned out some of the coolest hoops videos ever, has pledged $5,000 to start a fund to help rebuild the courts that help rebuild a community that continues to rebuild.

It’s a generous start but Terence Mullin, who coaches and runs a camp at St. Francis de Sales, said it will take about $100,000 to finish the job and replace the uniforms, socks, headbands. It also will tell a community that felt somewhat abandoned after Hurricane Sandy that it has not been forgotten.

It certainly would nice to hear the sound of basketballs being dribbled and the swish of a ball going through the net at St. Francis de Sale this summer. If charity isn’t cathartic, what is?

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