Bright and early Sunday morning, Kennedy High School hosted a fundraising event started by two young ladies hoping to make a difference in the fight against a deadly disease.
Buckets for Breast Cancer is a double-elimination three-on-three basketball tournament that kicked off its third year. Hundreds of local residents, both adults and children, participated to help stomp breast cancer into the ground, once and for all.
Allie Keller, co-creator of Buckets for Breast Cancer, graduated Kennedy last year and is now enrolled at Skidmore College in upstate New York.
"I started this with my best friend, Taylor Kruter. Unfortunately, both of our families have been affected by breast cancer," she said. "We both played basketball here at Kennedy and we just wanted to do as much as we could, so we started this event to just see where it went. The first year wasn't that successful, but last year it kind of blew up and took off."
After a shaky start, Keller said the tournament has continued to gain momentum thanks to improved planning and promotion.
"We're trying to be more organized this year and get more teams to participate," she said. "To do that, we tried to emphasize pre-registration, which made it easier for us to organize the brackets, which was one of the main problems last year.”
The work paid off, as Buckets for Breast Cancer continues to grow and grow. In 2010, they raised $4,000 for breast cancer research; in 2011, $7,500; this year Keller hopes the tournament will outdo itself once again.
"We don't have the final count yet," she said. "Our goal is $10,000, so we'll just hope for the best."
In addition to registration fees, the tournament raises money via raffles (with prizes donated by local businesses), the sale of Buckets for Breast Cancer-branded apparel, as well as refreshments.
Now that she's moved on to college, Keller has had to hand off running this year's event to someone she could trust to do it right – her brother Brett, who was more than happy to take on the big responsibility.
"It feels good. I know I’m doing something for a good cause,” he said. “But I’m a junior here at Kennedy and everyone’s asking who’s going to take it over when I graduate next year.”
And does Brett have any ideas who he will hand the tournament over to when the time comes?
“I may have a couple of people in mind,” he said. “I have to see if they’re ready, and if they’re willing. But I still have one more year to enjoy it.”
Marc Honigfeld of Merrick, a regular basketball player, makes it a point to participate in the tournament each year with his friends.
“We’ve done this the past couple of years because it’s a great combination- getting a workout and supporting a great cause,” he said. “Given the high rates of breast cancer here on Long Island, I think we’re all been touched by cancer, so it’s important to get involved.”
Mike Schwartz, president of student government of Kennedy, was another resident who laced up to hit the court this morning.
“Brett Keller and his sister have been running this event for a few years now, and they’ve been doing an amazing job,” he said. “It’s a great cause. Basketball is a big sport in Bellmore and Merrick and this event brings out a lot of people every year.”