Author: Robert Creenan
In 2014, after 25 years of city play, the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament relocated its Buffalo tournament to outlying areas. Organizers held the 2014 tourney at Darien Lake before settling in Grand Island for 2015 and the foreseeable future. The problem was that city youth and organizations still wanted a tournament. In Gus Macker’s place came the Buff City Hoops tournament.
The organizers of Buff City Hoops didn’t want to just be another basketball tournament. They wanted to interact with the community for a longer period of time, free of charge. The tournament is held citywide in various community centers for 6 weeks, with 1 big tournament at the end. Teams are made up of kid from the ages 8 to 18. Over the course of the program, the organizers bring in motivational speakers who give presentations for participants. “We’re not just addressing the need for sport,” said Esther Smothers, the Fundraising Chair, “We’re giving an opportunity to tap into people’s minds and make a change in the community.” Last year, the tournament’s first year, 300 students participated.
Buff City Hoops is always looking for volunteers to coach teams and speak with the youth. They are also willing to work with other basketball tournaments to provide an outlet for kids to play ball while they work on community outreach and programs, such as violence prevention and conflict resolution. The program currently runs in the summer, but organizers do hope to get to the point where events are possible in the winter and over school breaks.
On April 21, Buff City Hoops will be holding their first fundraiser, at 1670 Main Street. The event costs $50 to attend and will feature a buffet and open bar. Supporters are still free to donate online. “Fundraising is crucial because all aspects of this are free,” said Smothers. “The kids don’t even pay for water or snacks.”
For Smothers and the other Buff City Hoops leaders, prevention is better than intervention. They’re giving kids an outlet to cultivate their minds and properly use their energy. “You actually have a hands-on approach to the youth and communities and reaching them at the source. Finances are not what’s going to stop them from receiving help. You build positive change when you let children know that someone gives a damn about them.”