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Students raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief at Christmas Basketball Classic

| By Nick Alexopulos

At the first ever Christmas Basketball Classic, you didn’t need an accurate jump shot to make a difference.

Student teams representing each current undergraduate class year competed in the Dec. 9 tournament to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey. Held in Reitz Arena, the event was hosted by Loyola University Maryland’s Student Government Association (SGA) and was the latest show of support for the many Loyola students, alumni, and their families who are from areas hardest hit by the storm.

“I wanted to do my part in giving back to places that mean a lot to me,” said Dominick Proto, ’15, assistant director of public relations for the SGA and lead organizer of the Christmas Basketball Classic. “We’re all about community here at Loyola, so it was important that we extend this invitation to everybody on campus and invite everybody to play.”

Proto, of New Haven, Conn., and fellow members of the SGA modeled the event after the now-defunct Fall Football Classic, a tradition at Loyola that ended four years ago after it consistently had to be rescheduled because of weather conditions. Each class fields a men’s team and a women’s team (varsity basketball players not allowed) that competes in two rounds of games to become University champion. In round one, first-year students play sophomores, and juniors play seniors; the winners of those games then play each other to take home the crown. Loyola student athletes serve as team coaches and referees.

The 50 student players each donated $5 to participate. The SGA sold limited edition Christmas Basketball Classic shirts for $10, wristbands for $1, and paper houses to ‘dedicate’ for $1. All of the proceeds benefitted the SGA’s Hounds for Hope campaign, which is donating funds to the American Red Cross for Sandy relief.

“I think it’s really cool. I mean, when else do you get a chance to play on a college court?” said Sheila Richeson, ’16, of Centreville, Md., who played four years of basketball in high school. “I wasn’t Division I material, so to come out here and play again is a lot of fun.”

Richeson and her teammates, some of whom met for the first time a day earlier for the team’s only practice, handily defeated their sophomore opponents. On the men’s side, the sophomore team fell in the first round as well, and both teams from the junior class advanced.

“Coming into this I knew I wasn’t that good of a basketball player, so I decided to sign up a bunch of my friends who weren’t good as well, and we were just going to have a lot of fun with it and give to a good cause,” said David Brooks, ’15.

Brooks, of Wyckoff, N.J., said many of his friends from New Jersey and Long Island experienced property damage or prolonged power loss from Sandy.

“My heart goes out to them,” Brooks said. Luckily, his hometown was largely spared.

“We can’t be home for the extensive rebuilding effort because we’re here at school,” said Danielle Melfi, ’13, president of the SGA. “So what can we give? We can give our time, we can give our funds, we can come together, and that’s what it’s really about for us.”

The junior class team on both the men’s and women’s side ultimately claimed victory. The SGA is calling the entire event a success, and the inception of what is hopefully a popular new annual tradition for Loyola students.

Including donations collected at the Christmas Basketball Classic, Loyola students have raised more than $2,000 through various initiatives to support Hurricane Sandy relief. For more information, visit Hounds for Hope on Facebook.

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