Playing for something bigger than yourself, a cliche commonly heard in athletics, does not genuinely occur that often. However, at the first annual Ballin’ For Bryce basketball tournament, that cliche was visible everywhere. “The atmosphere is always something special, I feel blessed to be a part of the creation,” co-creator Sean Hoey said. Last year, 21 teams took part in the tournament, but there are even bigger aspirations for this year.
Bryce Thomas tragically passed away on January 12, 2018, and it shook the West Ottawa community. Sean Hoey and Chase Spooner were two of Bryce’s best friends, and they wanted to honor Bryce’s legacy. They decided on a tournament in one of Bryce’s favorite sports to remember his legacy and raise money for great causes. Whether or not you play basketball, this day is something special to be a part of. Ballin’ For Bryce supports a great cause and a person beloved by the West Ottawa community. The basketball is fun and competitive for all levels, and the atmosphere is unforgettable.
Basketball is a game that should be fun but isn’t always. During those games when you can’t hit a shot and nothing goes your way, things can be frustrating. That isn’t a worry when taking part in this tournament. Everyone is smiling, laughing, and having a great time. Co-creator Chase Spooner said, “It’s a great opportunity to play basketball with your friends, have fun, and raise money for some great causes.”
Last year they had 21 teams take part, and not one of those teams left disappointed, even after losing. Participant PJ Trammell said, “We didn’t play our best ball and we lost a couple of games, still wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. So much fun.”
As a member of the winning team last year, Sr. Jason Fairfield cannot wait for May 18. “Winning the tournament was a bonus, just being there and playing for a great cause was so much fun.” There is a consensus among the teams that regardless of the result, Ballin’ For Bryce is a great event.
Players aren’t the only ones having fun; fans enter the gym and have a blast. Paul McNitt went to watch his two sons take part last year. He was planning on staying for one game, but “I just couldn’t get myself to leave. There was so much positive energy there and it felt great supporting such a good cause.” McNitt ended up staying for hours and enjoyed every moment.
Jr. Blake Pedersen could only watch a few games, but he wished that he could have stayed for much longer. “I wish I could have stayed for the whole tournament. There was such positive energy throughout all the games.” Pedersen plans on taking part this May because of that energy.
As alluded to earlier, the money raised goes directly into a great local cause. A portion of the money goes into the Bryce Thomas Memorial Scholarship at West Ottawa, which is given to an athlete who is interested in making a difference for others. They donate the rest of the money to the West Michigan Assistance Fund, whose mission is to help young, underprivileged athletes get the equipment needed to take part in sports.
“Last year we raised $3415.47, so this year we would love to hit the $4,000 mark… and we are hoping to get as many teams playing as possible. We would love to see the tournament grow in support every year,” organizer Chase Spooner said. Spooner has some high aspirations for the upcoming event, on May 18. With West Ottawa’s support, the event could grow and raise more money for some great causes.
Ballin’ For Bryce is something you won’t want to miss. Whether you are a basketball player or someone who could volunteer a talent, make sure you sign up early. If you are signing up a team, visit THIS website to sign up. If you are looking to volunteer, visit HERE to sign up.