Charlotte Catholic High School and the Mecklenburg Guardian ad Litem Advocacy Foundation are working to help Mecklenburg County foster children enjoy the activities many other children take for granted, like a summer camp or going to the prom.
To do this, the two organizations are teaming to provide an afternoon of family fun through a basketball game featuring the Harlem Ambassadors and a team of players from local government, businesses and athletic staff at Charlotte Catholic.
All ticket and concession sales from the game will fund the Guardian ad Litem Advocacy Foundation's new initiative, Beyond the Classroom. The GALA Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, supports the mission of the Mecklenburg County Guardian ad Litem program, a state program of volunteers who serve as advocates for children living in foster care.
Several of the children in foster care are special-needs children or have severe health issues or emotional needs, "because they are coming from traumatized situations," said Anamita Gall, a GALA Foundation coordinator for the event. The Beyond the Classroom fund will enable some of these children to go to summer camps.
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Marti Russo, a GALA Foundation board member, described camps for children with kidney problems and noted that many of the activities that Youth and Family Services provided have now "been curtailed because of their lack of funds."
Some needs are more basic, like having a calculator for math class or a dress for the prom.
Russo, whose children attended Charlotte Catholic, approached Principal Jerry Healy for help, thinking that perhaps the foundation could rent the gym.
"Jerry said, 'You can have the gym,'" said Russo.
Healy welcomed the involvement. "I felt like it was something that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Athletic Association should and could sponsor," said Healy. "The cause is wonderful. It's going to supplement the needs of foster children. What better way to help raise money?" Other sponsors include Consolidated Planning Inc., Willingdon Wealth Management, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, McGuire Woods LLP and Sir Speedy.
"We need to be involved in the community, and it's good for the kids to be a part of it and see it," said Healy.
Healy said he plans to attend the game with his grandchildren.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a student organization from Charlotte Catholic, will sell tickets at the door and run the concession stand.
"We're hoping to sell out," said Charlotte Catholic Athletic Director Kevin Christmas, a player in the game.
Christmas jokingly expressed some reservations about facing off with the Harlem Ambassadors. "I don't want to get dunked over," he said.
The Harlem Ambassadors, a team of men and women, travels around the country playing games involving high jinks, comedy routines and some serious basketball.
"They'll play two quarters of fun, kind of like the Globetrotters do, and two quarters where they'll play some reasonable basketball," said Russo.
The opposing team, the Guardians of the Hoop, includes a mix of players from various organizations, local government and staff at Charlotte Catholic. Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Louis Trosch and county commissioner Harold Cogdell Jr. also are scheduled to play.
Christmas might have reservations about his opposition, but he's looking forward to the game.
"Sounds to me like a family fun event, and what better way to spend family fun than supporting people in need?" he said.