NEW BRITAIN – As Len Corto made his way up West Main Street with a basketball in hand, it was pretty clear where the school district’s athletic director was headed.
Corto was among the community leaders on hand at the Downtown District Visitors Center on Wednesday morning for the tip-off and press conference for the fifth annual Hoops for Homeless benefit basketball tournament. He was joined by representatives of the New Britain school system, as well as several civic and social organizations.
The 3-on-3 basketball tournament since 2013 has raised money and awareness for city school children who face the ripple effects of homelessness. This year’s event will be held on and around Central Park from 10:10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 29. Registration begins at 9:20 a.m. The rain date is April 30.
Joe Vaverchak, city schools’ attendance officer and one of the three co-founders of the annual event, said this year’s outing will run alongside the yearly anti-violence rally sponsored by OIC and previously held in Walnut Hill Park.
“It’s going to be a great day and something we very much are looking forward to,” he said.
Vaverchak in his role with the school system sees first-hand the consequences of homelessness on city students and how it can disrupt daily routines and stability in school. He said city educational leaders have taken a proactive role in addressing the plight of families with students facing homelessness. Thanks to Hoops for Homeless, a $2,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who has faced that struggle but maintained their commitment to their schoolwork.
“It is definitely a community-wide effort that is always about the kids and families,” said Nancy Sarra, New Britain superintendent of schools. “This isn’t just a schools activity, but a group of adults partnering to make lives better for our kids.”
Barbara Damon, executive director of the Prudence Crandall Center, said her organization’s programs witness families at all stages of homelessness. The center’s partnership with the school system and its efforts to help students maintain a focus on their school work despite insecurity in their home life, results in “fabulous outcomes,” she said.
Having experienced homelessness as a youth, Jason Gibson, senior program director at the Boys & Girls Club of New Britain, said he was proud to be involved with Hoops for Homeless, an annual event he cited with helping dissolve the stigma surrounding those facing instability in their personal life. Gibson said his triumph over homelessness led to sharpened empathy for the problems people in his life may be dealing with behind closed doors. It also propelled him to a passion for work in the social services field and in his connection with Vaverchak’s office.
For more information on Hoops for Homeless or to register a team comprising those no younger than students in fourth grade, contact Jacob Werblow at 860-832-2474 or visit ccsu.edu/hoopsforhomeless.
Christopher Fortier can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.