Fallsburg Interact’s Hoops for Ally Fundraiser

by Julia Batista

On April 29th, the Fallsburg Interact Club held a basketball tournament at their home court to help raise money for the Allyson Whitney Foundation. This organization was founded by Barbara Strong, a third grade Fallsburg elementary school teacher who lost her young adult daughter to a rare kind of cancer. After Ms. Strong’s loss, she decided she wanted to spread awareness about rare cancers in young adults and created the Allyson Whitney Foundation, named after her own daughter.

The foundation has existed for a few years, raising money for those that are battling cancer locally and nationally.

“There are a variety of things that my foundation does that helps raise awareness for rare cancers,” Ms. Strong said. “That includes our biggest fundraiser, the 5K walk that we host here in the beginning of May.”

“This basketball tournament is yet another fundraiser that the Fallsburg Interact club has put together today.” Ms. Strong shared.

“A lot of Ally’s friends like to help contribute to the foundation, one of them hosting a 5K walk all the way in California. Another one is being hosted in Honolulu in December as well, proving how much the foundation has spread from here.”

The Fallsburg Interact Club sponsored a “Hoops for Ally” Fundraiser. Pictured, left to right, are Jenna Vairo, Julia Batista, Ms. Barbara Strong, Sadie Caballero and Shoshana Conlon.

In talking about the need to spread awareness about the effects of cancer on young adults, Ms. Strong explained, “a lot of the focus on cancer is mostly on the old and very young ages of our population, yet not many look at the in-between, at our young adults. I would like to raise the awareness of cancer in our youth because we never really think about the teens.

“One hundred percent of everyone at the Allyson Whitney Foundation are volunteers, and our funds go to grants that are called ‘Life Interrupted Grants’™ that are given out to young adults fighting and undergoing cancer treatment. Only a small percentage of our funds go to the research of cancer.”

Being a part of the Fallsburg community from which Ms. Strong comes, the Fallsburg Interact Club put together their own fundraiser to help support her foundation. All basketball players from Sullivan County under the age of 18 were invited to participate, and schools such as Ellenville, Liberty and Monticello all convened at the Fallsburg Comets’ home court to play ball.

The tournament was held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with players donating five dollars each to play while the spectators were donating three dollars to watch. Concessions were also available, along with some merchandise from the Allyson Whitney Foundation; with all proceeds going towards the organization.

“This event required so much preparation, I’m very proud to say that [Fallsburg students] Sadie and Shoshana did do a lot of the work by putting this all together,” beamed Ms. Skully, adviser of the Interact Club.  “I’m very impressed by the amazing job they did, taking up a huge leadership role and reaching out to the rest of the community to bring them together for this fundraiser.”

Sadie Caballero, the president of the Interact Club, had some words to share about the tournament as well.

“It makes me feel good to host an event that allows kids to come here and have fun for a good cause. I’m glad that by allowing everyone to come play, we’re raising awareness for rare cancers so that another person gets to live another day so that they could spend it with their families.

“I just want to make sure that everyone had fun and that we’ve made a significant amount of money for the foundation today,” Caballero continued. “But I also want the kids to go home happy knowing that they played their best for something good.”

Seven teams came out to play early that Saturday, about fifty-five people in total showing up. The players on the winning team were given gift cards to local restaurants, along with an Allyson Whitney t-shirt to take home. Many of the players that took part in the tournament agreed that this event was something the community should do more often, as it is so rare that communities across Sullivan County come together for big events.

“I came out today because I wanted to play basketball and help this foundation out, because something like this is nice for the community,” remarked Roy Penn Cosentino, a Liberty basketball player. “There’s high stakes here just like a championship, and not a lot of schools do this. It’s a lot better than sitting at home doing nothing when I can be here instead and compete against other schools with my own team.”

“I have love for the game and I’d do anything to support a cause like this because I know that some of my family members have suffered from cancer,” offered Kalaysha Sanders from Monticello. “It means a lot to me that something like this was put together and partnered up with the sport I love, because practicing while it’s off-season only makes me better.”

Many of Fallsburg’s own basketball players came out to support the cause as well, one of them being Rashaad Nurse.

“I’m here to help friends and family out, to bring awareness to something that brings people together for a good cause,” he said. “I liked the idea of us having a community event, and it’s important because it’s different and we can all have fun on the weekend while still competing with others from all around the county.”

Remarking on the successful event, Ms. Strong stated. “It makes me very emotional and humbled to know that my foundation is being backed by my local students and community. It’s very hard to put into words.

“Just walking in brought a lot of emotion because Ally would’ve really loved this,” Ms. Strong said through tears. “She was a very big Knicks fan, and her heart is where basketball is. She grew up in Monticello and it’s very nice to see that our own community has come out to help me help others now.”

After the event was all over, the Ellenville team won the tournament and the Fallsburg Interact Club had successfully collected $565 to donate to the Allyson Whitney Foundation. All of the money was given to Ms. Strong to be put towards her organization, while the winning team happily earned prizes and rewards for participating.

The Fallsburg Interact Club is planning on organizing another fundraiser just like this one for the Allyson Whitney Foundation next year, so hopefully many more will be able to  come out to help support the foundation while they playing their hearts out on the court at the same time.