FULTON, NY – More than 140 young basketball players left the War Memorial with a gift after Saturday’s game day for Fulton Youth Basketball.
Presents were collected by varsity and junior varsity athletes from the girls basketball and cheerleading teams as well as the varsity boys soccer team, all of which individual athletes purchased their own presents to donate.
As an undertaking led by Fulton’s athletic director Christopher Ells, each team in the district organizes and prioritizes a project to emphasize giving back to the community.
For the girls basketball program’s project, 143 gifts were purchased and donated to be distributed randomly to Fulton Youth Basketball players from each team in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Youth coaches were made aware of the project and had the opportunity to nominate players that they felt would benefit from the gesture.
In all, the event was more than just a way to give back to the community, said varsity girls basketball coach Derek Lyons.
It was another way to build a relationship between the community’s youth basketball players and the Fulton varsity program that many of today’s young players could very likely become a part of in years to come, he explained.
“We wanted to try to help kids out around our community but also get the youth basketball program together with our program. We thought this would be a good way to spread some holiday cheer,” Lyons said.
Varsity players and coaches have made an effort to be involved with the youth basketball program in ways such as refereeing and scorekeeping youth basketball games each week, volunteering their time to help run clinics and basketball camps, and just being present to build relationships with youth players.
“It’s good to come down here and watch these kids route them on and mingle with them. I think the biggest part isn’t even the gifts, it’s just us being down here and making our faces known,” Lyons said.
Fulton Youth Basketball director Sean Broderick was grateful for Lyons and his team’s efforts to give back to the youth athletes of the community.
“It was an awesome gesture by Coach Lyons and the girls program to collect gifts and think of us when they were donating them back. We appreciate Coach Lyons and his program for thinking of our program when they do community service like this,” Broderick said.
Aside from allowing high school athletes to fulfill community service requirements for school credit or extra curricular programs, their presence provides the opportunity to serve as positive role models for youth athletes, Broderick said.
“I always tell the varsity level players not to underestimate how cool our youth kids think it is when they’re just present on Saturday for game days,” Broderick said.
Broderick said 100 percent of current varsity level players were former players of Fulton Youth Basketball, a large part of the reason he vowed to bridge a connection between the youth and varsity level programs when he took over the youth basketball program a few years ago.
“This is a good way to give back to the program where they probably started playing basketball,” he said.