In an effort to reach out to those in need this holiday season, two Hillsborough parishes, St. Joseph’s Church and Parish Center and Mary Mother of God Church, competed against each other in their first charity basketball game on Dec. 29.
The event was held at Mary Mother of God Church Parish Hall where the Catholic Youth Ministry coaches of both St. Joseph’s Church’s “Blue Storm” tipped-off against the Mother Mary of God’s “Saints,” where they competed for a beneficial cause.
Admission for the event was a bag of food, with all proceeds benefiting the Hillsborough Food Pantry’s Community Action Network.
This year was the first event, which is planned to be held annually between both parishes. The game was coordinated by John Jeney, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s who had already been coaching his son’s youth basketball team for multiple years.
With the holiday season approaching, Jeney said he wanted to find a way to get both parishes involved that would be enjoyable, yet served a need in the community that they could get behind.
“[The game] was a fun event between the two parishes. A lot of the coaches know each other and there was nothing like this,” Jeney said. “I thought it through and said, ‘This was a good idea.’ It’d be a lot of fun and at the same time, we can show the kids that we are coaching. We’re not just talk. We’ll put ourselves out on the court for a good cause.”
As friends and family turned out for the game with food donations in-hand, they cheered on their fellow parishioners on both sides of the court.
Jeney said the game was not only an entertaining setting to play in, but a notable experience for his teammates and fellow competitors as well.
“It was a tremendous atmosphere,” Jeney said. “A lot of the players that we coach showed up – many of them of them in their Blue Storm gear or Mary Mother of God shirts, and they were cheering with every play. It was a lot of fun for all of us to be involved with. In talking to a lot of the coaches after, they said, ‘I hadn’t played in front of a crowd in 20 years. How much fun was that?’”
Alongside Jeney’s participation to coordinate the event, he was assisted by Bill Grimmer from St. Joseph’s as well as Joe Alexander, Russ Titus and Steven Krempasky from Mary Mother of God Parish.
Outside of the competitive spirit and charitable nature of the game, both parishes took a moment at halftime to honor Titus for his years of service to the Hillsborough community.
In recognition of Titus’ efforts around the community for nearly 20 years, he was awarded a plaque, which Grimmer said was a memorable moment from the night.
“With Mary Mother of God Parish, there’s Russ Titus whose been helping to run their program for almost 20 years,” Grimmer said. “[The game] was a nice way to recognize his community service for both parishes and to see fans come out and cheer for him, specifically.”
Although Mary Mother of God Parish came out on top over St. Joseph’s with a final score of 51-46, the closely contested matchup proved to be a friendly, yet intense game between both sides.
As the evening event became filled with first-time experiences and memories for the parish communities, Jeney pointed out that the amount of donations were more significant than the outcome of the final score.
“What surprised me [about the game] was how competitive everyone was,” Jeney said. “It was definitely turned up a notch more than I was expecting as evidenced by a few bumps and bruises. It shows that we’re all competitive at heart, but after the game, even though we lost, there were no hard feelings. Everyone was smiling, shaking hands and patting each other on the back.”
Even though the event was an initiative set in place by Jeney, he said the comradery between both parishes helped bring the charitable game’s purpose to fruition.
“It wouldn’t have been a success without the partnership with Mary Mother of God. They assisted [us], tremendously,” Jeney said. “They brought their own ideas and were able to facilitate a lot of things that really helped with the event as well.
“It brought the two parishes together. It showed that even though we are two different parishes, we are all working for the same cause. We are all Hillsborough and even though there is a cross-town rivalry, we can all come together for a good, fun event.”
As both parishes look to make this charity basketball game an annual event for the future, Jeney said he hopes to build on the success of this year’s attendance.
With an increase in participation from both parishes, Jeney hopes future events can garner more donations for further outreach in the Hillsborough community.
“[I would like to see] more people getting involved within both parishes,” Jeney said. “I’d say we had somewhere between 125 and 150 people attending, so hopefully we can increase those numbers. In-turn, that means more donations for whichever charity we choose in the future.”