To print: right click, save image as
A message from the Founder and past tournament director
I was born and raised in Weedville, Pennsylvania; a dot on the map of northcentral Pennsylvania where 500 friends and family call home. With one gas station, a post office, a few churches and some bars, some would see little opportunity. I guess it depends on what opportunities you are looking for. It is not just anywhere you have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on your community but that’s what I did when I decided to organize and grow an annual fundraising event.
Weedville isn’t known for much. Blink while you’re driving down route 555 through Bennett’s Valley and you might miss it completely. Except for one day out of the year when this seemingly sleepy place comes alive and hundreds of visitors and extended family members join to celebrate Labor Day as a community. There are rides, games, food, music and everything a good celebration should have. Growing up this celebration marked the end of every satisfying summer of my childhood and helped to instill in me the value of both people and place.
As a young adult, I began to notice a steady decline in the celebration’s attendance and, as a result, a drop in the overall quality of the festival. That is when I made a commitment to my community and got involved. In 2013, I organized and directed the first annual charity basketball tournament with the goal of bringing new families and extended community members to our event. The first year was an overwhelming success, welcoming over 300 new attendees to the event and raising over $1,000 for the Labor Day celebration. Since then, the tournament’s participation and income has increased steadily, raising over $5,000 to date. The influx of visitors also generates support for several nonprofit organizations who benefit from the proceeds and are dedicated to improving the quality of life for local groups including senior citizens and young people.
When I started the tournament, I thought it was a fun way to bring attention to the celebration and provide another occasion to hang out with my friends, play basketball, and get a free t-shirt. What I didn’t consider was the impact my work could really have on my community and how happy it made me feel to be a part of something bigger than myself. Having actively contributed to the sense of community surrounding our Labor Day event, I also now realize an invaluable lesson: the dedication to—and hard work for the greater good of—our small corner of the world is a value I have not despite, but because of, where I’m from. The citizenship I have seen modeled for me is very much a part of me.
I am proud of this personal attribute and of what my tournament has accomplished. This year, as I begin my freshman year of college, I felt especially grateful for what the tournament has taught me. When the president of the Labor Day committee recognized my contributions during his closing remarks, I was reminded of the words of John F. Kennedy: “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”