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Basketball game reunites a town

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny David Paul greets the crowd as he’s announced to a cheering crowd Oct. 5. Teachers and staff from nine Leesburg elementary schools played the Harlem Wizards, an entertaining professional basketball team, at a packed Tuscarora High School gym in a basketball game to raise money for a new playground at the new Frederick Douglass Elementary School. The event was intended to rebuild community spirit after prolonged boundary hearings.

The matchup between the Loudoun Lightning, a basketball team composed of Leesburg-area elementary school teachers and parents, and the Harlem Wizards, a trick-shooting basketball team from New York, was about more than a game.

Sure, there were 1,206 spectators who showed up Oct. 5 at Tuscarora High School to watch the match, and the Wizards dazzled the crowd with high-flying dunks and spectacular alley-oops. And while the event was technically a fundraiser, collecting $4,120 for playground equipment at the brand new Frederick Douglass Elementary School, it meant more than that.

This basketball game brought a community back together.

After Leesburg parents spent much of last year in hotly contested school boundary hearings, an issue that would ultimately be settled in court, event organizers Jennifer Boyd and Heather Kirchner felt something need to be done to reunite the community.

“I thought it was important to show our kids everyone could get together and work toward a common goal, even if we don’t agree on everything,” said Kirchner, the community relations chair of the Ball’s Bluff PTA.

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photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Frederick Douglass Elementary School Principal Timothy Martino gets hugs from Harlem Wizards James “Road Runner” Tyndal and Rashaan “Rocket” Barner, left, Oct. 5. Teachers and staff from nine Leesburg elementary schools played the Harlem Wizards, an entertaining professional basketball team, at a packed Tuscarora High School gym in a basketball game to raise money for a new playground at the new Frederick Douglass Elementary School. The event was intended to rebuild community spirit after prolonged boundary hearings.

Planning for the event started in early 2012 and the idea for the Wizards came from Catoctin.

“We had a meeting back in February, and I came back to my school and said ‘hey guys, they want to do an event,’” said Jennifer Boyd, president of the Catoctin PTA. “My fundraising coordinator said ‘what do you think of the Wizards?’”

From there, the organizers solicited volunteers to help organize, which involved tasks of negotiating contracts, finding an event location and enabling the help of the local elementary schools. To the surprise of the organizers, all nine schools asked to participate in the event jumped on board.

“We had thought, if we could get five or six, that would be good,” Boyd said.

More than 1,200 spectators showed up and both children and their parents enthusiastically cheered on the event.

photoTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Loudoun school board member Tom Reed high fives Leesburg Lighting teammates as he’s announced Oct. 5.

“I could cry,” said Tom Reed, at-large member of the Loudoun County School Board. “It’s a tremendous relief to see the community coming together to promote what we’re here for and that’s to educate kids.”

For the event itself, numerous parents volunteered to man the concession and ticket stands. Some of the volunteers, however, took a more “active” role, and 17 teachers and parents volunteered to take on the Wizards in an exhibition game.

The Wizards handily won the game, outscoring the Lightning 90-79, while amusing the crowd with antics that included taking shots from the bleachers and dumping buckets of water on each other in the middle of the game.

But as Tim Martino, principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary, the benefactor of the fundraiser pointed out, everybody at the game walked away victorious.

“There’s 52 elementary schools [in Loudoun] and we all function as our own elementary schools,” Martino said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all on the same team, and this really shows it.”

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