The fifth annual charity basketball fundraiser Hoops For Harrison will be held again this month, with the fundraiser’s namesake, Harrison Gillman, now in charge. Started in 2013 by cousins Jagger Gillman and Ethan Bradford, who were freshmen at North Shore High School at the time, the event raises money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) each year, a cause they are passionate about: Jagger’s younger brother, Harrison, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 7. Now that the two older boys are in college, the reins have been passed on to Harrison, a sophomore at North Shore High School, and his friend Cameron Mikes, a junior at Roslyn High School.
“It’s been a transition since the beginning,” said Rachel Gillman, mother of Jagger and Harrison. “It started as this small event that two young boys created and it’s just exploding.”
The three-on-three basketball tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) in East Hills. Each year the event has gotten bigger as the committee fine tunes the details and finds ways to make it even better. This year they decided to open it up to adults, so the entire event will last all day, with different time slots for the three different age groups. Those in middle school will play from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; adults 17 and up will play from 1 to 4 p.m. and high school students have the courts from 5 to 7 p.m. The teen lounge will be available to participants between games, with Xbox and ping-pong tables.
“This is the first year the JCC is taking an active role in helping to plan and facilitate what the event looks like,” said Joey Falk, teen program supervisor at the Sid Jacobson JCC. “I’m helping them build leadership skills and take ownership over different pieces. I’m giving them the tools to be successful in asking for donations and sponsorships, and how to ask friends for help. For the JCC, it’s been really awesome to be a partner in this event and help raise money for a great cause.”
Rachel noted that originally Harrison was not too comfortable with the event being named for him, but he soon gained perspective that it’s not for him alone.
“It’s also reaching out to others, to kids who have been diagnosed, and to know there’s support out there,” she said.
“It’s not all about me,” said Harrison. “It’s about raising money for people who have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.”
She also wasn’t sure that he would want to take on a leadership role. But for Harrison, there was no question.
“I definitely wanted to take it over,” said Harrison. “It’s another way we can raise money, and the quicker we can find a cure, the less people will have to suffer from these diseases.”
Those interested in participating can register at www.sjjcc.org/hoopsforharrison; the cost is $150 per team (three to five members) for those who sign up before Jan. 5, and $165 for those who sign up between Jan. 6 and Jan. 10, 2018. Walk-ins will not be accepted. Sponsorship opportunities are also available and all of the proceeds go to CCFA.
“The entire Long Island Chapter has had the privilege of watching Harrison grow from a newly diagnosed little kid, to the teen of today,” said Edda Ramsdell, executive director of the Long Island Chapter of the CCFA. “We are so proud of his ‘morph’ into this terrific, mature young man, capable of taking the ‘Hoops For Harrison’ reins into his own hands and putting his personal spin on it.”
There are now 17 teens on the committee to help plan the event and seek donations, as well as more volunteers ready to help on the day of the event. Volunteers on board are from Roslyn, Manhasset, Jericho, Wheatley and other communities, and the event founders, Bradford and Jagger, will be on break from college and are also expected to participate.
Mikes is a member of the JCC who likes basketball, which is how he first learned about the event before he started volunteering.
“Then I became passionate about it and have put in a ton of work,” he said.
He and Harrison have been working hard since last year to raise donations and organize the tournament. They will be hand-picking sports memorabilia items from Triple Crown Sports for the silent auction, an aspect that tends to help raise even more money than the registration fees alone.
“To be able to work with Cameron and Harrison has been so inspirational for me because they care so deeply and they want to do good, which makes me care even more deeply,” said Falk.
In the years that the family has been dealing with disease, Rachel said there has been improvements in treatments and a lot more research on the disease.
“The ultimate goal is to find a cure,” said Rachel. “The hope is that they will find better ways of managing the disease until they find a cure.”