Valparaiso High School was the home to another Friday night basketball game, but this time with a twist.
The world famous Harlem Wizards and the local famous Valpo All-Stars partnered together Friday night for the 5th Annual Harlem Wizards vs. Valpo All-Stars Trick-Hoops and Alley-Oops. As fans cheered them on, the two teams went head to head in the gymnasium of Valparaiso High School, doing trick shots, dunks, and bringing a smile to everyone’s face as they raised money for an important cause.
“We have this game every year to raise money for the Valpo Schools Foundation,” said Lindsay Knauff, Board Member of the Foundation and Co-Chair of the annual game. “We give away over $60,000 of scholarships and teacher grants every year for the Valpo community schools. And every year, the Harlem Wizards put on a show and play our team. We usually loose, but they do all kinds of tricks and alley-oops. It’s a lot of fun.”
For over 50 years, the Harlem Wizards have traveled the world, raising money for non-profits, charities, and communities like Valparaiso with their unbelievable trick shots, electric personalities, and their crowd pleasing fun. And for the past five years, they have brought their talents to play the Valpo All-Stars, a team which consists of teachers from Valparaiso Community Schools.
“It’s great to have had parents, families, and the entire community come together,” said Sam Ostafinski, a first grade teacher at Hayes Leonard Elementary School. “I love seeing all of the kids I’ve had in my class and who are in my class now and it’s important for them to see me out on the court with all of the other teachers. Their faces brighten up and this is a memory they will always have from first grade.”
Ostafinski’s students were the only ones who got the chance to see him sprint up and down the court Friday night. His twin brother, Kevin, who serves in the United States Navy, is on leave for a week before returning to serve his country and came out Friday night to cheer his brother on and return to his roots.
“It’s great to get back to the community, to the school I went to, and get to see all of the kids enjoy what Valpo has to offer,” Kevin Ostafinski said. “Over the years, the town has really grown in popularity, so it’s really great to see the kids enjoy events like this.”
And enjoy they did. All night, kids and their families were laughing, smiling, and eagerly waiting for what goofy trick the Harlem Wizards did next. Before the game started, the Wizards brought dozens of kids of all ages onto the court to shoot, do lay-ups, and do fun exercises with the charming players.
Interacting with the crowd didn’t stop there. During the game, the Wizards picked little kids from the audience to teach them a dance, try and catch a $20 bill connected to a fishing hook, and give them a chance to win prizes.
“My favorite part was in the beginning when Big J was acting like a little kid,” exclaimed McKenna Bogner, who has been coming to the game for the past three years. “I’m having a lot of fun.”
McKenna’s mother, Elaine, looks forward to this event every year and Friday night was no different.
“I’m like a big kid, so I enjoy it,” Bogner said. “It’s great family fun, it’s local, and we love supporting the community. We love the schools, so anything that lends support to the teachers, the administrations, the staff, and the whole district I’m all for.”
The annual game was sponsored by countless organizations and local businesses, including the Valparaiso-based Cavanaugh & Nondorf Orthodontics.
"Both Rob Cavanuagh and I really love supporting this event. It's unique and exciting for families," said Matt Nondorf of Cavanaugh & Nondorf Orthodontics. "Both Rob and I went to Valparaiso schools, so this event is our chance of giving back. And it's really important to support the Valparaiso School Foundation because teaching is one of the most undervalued professions out there, so we really try to give back to the teachers who add value to our community."
All of the money raised from Harlem Wizards merchandise, concessions, and ticket sales Friday night went right to the Valparaiso Community Schools. Hundreds of people attended the game, showing just how much the locals love and support the Valparaiso schools and community.
“We need all of the funding to be able to provide scholarships so that our kids can go on and become the future citizens of Valparaiso,” Knauff said. “Along with the teacher grants so that we can give our kids everything they need to be productive and successful students.”
For more information about the energetic and electrifying Harlem Wizards, go to www.harlemwizards.com and for more information about Cavanaugh & Nondorf Orthodontics, visit http://www.cnorthodontics.com/.