Just in time for March Madness, the 12 Oaks Foundation will host its third annual Hoops for Hope tournament March 16-17 at Grayslake North High School.
Each spring, the tournament draws more than 500 basketball players and 100 teams to the court for some 3-on-3 action. Open to all players from fourth-graders through adults, the event raises funds to help children in families coping with cancer and financial hardships.
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New this year, organizers have teamed up with LifeSource to host a Matt Hupp Memorial Blood Drive on-site during the first day of the tournament from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 16.
To donate blood, fans and players ages 16 and older should call (877) 543-3768 in advance to schedule an appointment and bring two forms of identification. Any 16-year-old donor needs a parental consent form, available on the LifeSource website. Walk-ins are also accepted.
The blood drive is named after the oldest son of Steve and Julie Hupp, founders of 12 Oaks. Matt Hupp lost his battle with a rare form of cancer called Birkitt's Lymphoma in 2009 at age 13. During his illness, Matt relied on help from many donors for blood and platelet transfusions. This blood drive serves as a way for the Hupp family to honor those donors and return the gift.
"Blood isn't something that can ever be manufactured; it's a very special and unique gift," said Marie Pinetti, LifeSource business development representative.
Pinetti said each donation actually has the potential to help save the lives of three people because every blood unit is divided into red blood cells, platelets and plasma, separate components used to treat separate conditions.
The Hupp family decided to create a foundation that could assist other families suffering under similar circumstances. Funds raised through Hoops for Hope go to help cover fees for sports and other activities for children in families dealing with a long-term illness.
12 Oaks also sponsors summer and sports camps offered through organizations like Children's Oncology Services Inc.
"Hoops for Hope is at its core about Matt Hupp," said Jim Fitzgerald, one of the event organizers. "But I also believe it's grown into an event the whole community looks forward to. People stick around for hours, long after their player finishes, just to hang out and watch."
Volunteer coordinator Michelle Ptasienski recruits about 120 volunteers to assist with court supervision, concessions and other duties during the two-day tournament. To volunteer to work a shift, email Ptasienski at email@example.com.
The entry fee is $35 for youths, $40 after March 1; $40 for adults. Each registration comes with a 12 Oaks reversible mesh jersey and the chance to win prizes in a 3-point shooting contest and skills competition.
To register or for details, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.12oaksfoundation.org.