Hoops Fest fund-raiser is all about fun

The crowd started arriving at Gar-Field High School at 5:30 p.m. to get a seat for the 7 p.m. show that was Hoops Fest 8.

Ben Keil of Heritage Christian School said he came to see friends compete in the three-point shootouts, two-ball competition and dunking contest.

Christian Riddle, who was attending his second Hoops Fest, said he liked the originality of the slam dunks at the end of the party, but he really came just for the fun of it.

“I like all the girls that come up in here,” said Riddle, 16, of Gar-Field High School.

Hoops Fest is an annual event started in 1996 by Tom Clark, who at the time, was the sports editor of the Potomac News.

Since the beginning the event has drawn capacity crowds to alternating schools around Prince William County.

Clark, who is currently assignments editor at the USA Today Sports Desk came to Hoops Fest 8 and said he hasn’t heard of such an event taking place anywhere else.

“I bet you every county in the country would be envious of this kind of gathering of high school talent,” Clark said of ball players — boys and girls — from every high school in Prince William and Stafford counties and Manassas and Manasas Park.

Donations, gate receipts and T-Shirt sales at that first Hoops Fest brought $4,000 to help Lee Thompson Jr. who had spinal meningitis

Each year thereafter, the sports writers of the Potomac News found a deserving member of the community who was in need of help and held a Hoops Fest to raise money. The Manassas Journal Messenger became involved in Hoops Fest in 1998.

This year, Hoops Fest brought in $8,700 which will go to Ali Mohamed to help toward the cost of a $100,000 pair of prosthetic legs.

Mohamed, 19, lost his legs when robbers threw a bomb into his home in Mogadishu, Somalia, 11 years ago.

Ali spoke briefly to the crowd at Gar-Field before the beginning of the dunking contest.

“I would like to say thank you. Thank you everybody. From all my family … thank you,” Ali said to the cheering crowd of 1,800 people.

Ali and members of his family, sitting at the sidelines, offered large smiles and waves at the cheering crowd when Ali finished.

Ruth Broderick sold pizzas and hot dogs while her son, James Broderick, was inside the gym at Hoops Fest. “Hoops Fest is fun,” she said.

“I think the kids have fun,” Broderick said over the cheering. “And it’s for a really good cause. It’s always for a really good cause.”

Dan Lawray, the basketball coach at Osbourn Park High School, said he’s never missed a Hoops Fest. “I love Hoops Fest,” Lawray said.

“It’s a great atmosphere for the kids to come and have a good time. Get a chance to relax and do things the way they want to do instead of having us yell at them,” Lawray said.

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