More than 200 cheering fans, 13 basketball teams, and a cup of java on the line. That is what was on tap at the Elizabeth High School gym for the Hunter's Legacy Basketball Tournament on Nov. 11.
The event, complete with the Elizabeth High School …
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The event, complete with the Elizabeth High School cheerleaders, was all part of a fundraiser in honor of Elizabeth High School freshman Hunter Neelley, who died in early October following a four-year battle with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that eventually spread to his lungs.
The tournament, organized by the Elizabeth High School Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), is an example of how the community in and around Elizabeth has rallied to the Neelley family. In February, Creekside Community Church also held a fundraiser to help the Neelley family with medical expenses and to allow them to visit friends in Hawaii.
“This was all done by the kids,” said Melanie Darter, department chair for the FCCLA at Elizabeth High School. “It's their fall community service project to help the Neelley family defray the medical expenses that they accumulated during Hunter's illness.”
Thirteen teams made up of students, faculty and public-safety workers took to the court for an all-play, double-elimination tournament. Each game lasted five minutes, and teams not suffering two losses in round one moved on to compete in a single-elimination bracket for the grand prize, a hot beverage compliments of the Coffee Coop. Big Mouth Pizza, also a sponsor, donated pizzas for the concession stand.
Prior to the first tipoff, the crowd took a moment to recognize Veterans Day, and at halftime, the cheers fell silent as Scott Neelley expressed his gratitude for all the support and prayers the family has received from the community.
“Thank you so much, we love that you guys are all here tonight,” Neelley said.
By the end of the night, the students had raised an estimated $1,800 for Hunter's medical bills, and the high school faculty's Light-Blue team savored victory with a little help from Scott Neelley, whom the team drafted as its special-guest player.
FCCLA is a nonprofit national career and technical student organization for young men and women in family and consumer sciences education in both public and private schools. The organization emphasizes community service and leadership development.
“The projects that we do are integrated with the standards for the FCCLA programs,” Darter said.
FCCLA informed Scott Neelley this week that the organization is hoping to make the tournament an annual event to support the Hunter's HOPE Legacy Scholarship Award.
“Robin and I were just talking last week about how to pay tribute to Hunter in a pay-it-forward kind of way and think this might just hit the nail on the head. His (Hunter's) best friend Nicole, he called her Coley, is in FCCLA,” Neelley said. “I know he would be proud.”
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