Written by Jordan Lauterbach Friday, 01 April 2011 00:00
As hundreds of people flocked in and out of Jericho High School on Saturday, March 26 for the Fifth Annual “Alley Oop for Autism” charity basketball tournament, all Justin Resnick could do was smile and reflect. It was only five years ago when the Jericho High School alum began his journey to help those less fortunate. Now, $465,000 later, Resnick’s small idea has become a big deal.
According to their website, the Ascent School in Deer Park is a non-profit school for children diagnosed with autism and “atypical pervasive developmental disorders.” While researching possible community service projects, Resnick and his family visited the school and were instantly touched.
“What they do there is absolutely unbelievable,” Resnick said. “We had to do something to help.”
Instead of donating a sum of money to an anonymous cause, he wanted to make sure that all of his hard work would benefit those who needed it most. Resnick felt the only way to do that was to control the money flow himself.
The lifelong basketball player decided to start the 3-on-3 basketball tournament and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the Ascent School. After some initial scheduling obstacles, he got the program off the ground. The inaugural event raised $101,000.
“It blew everyone out of the water,” Resnick said. “Our success has garnered even more community support and made the event bigger and bigger every year.”
This year’s event featured 320 players ranging in age from 8 to 55 years old. Each team of three plays 15- minute games against others in their age bracket. All players pay a $40 entrance fee.
“We’re reaching more people now,” organizer Debbie Levine said. “They’re more aware of this particular event.”
Levine is a parent at the Ascent school. Her belief in the event inspired her to get more involved. “Unless you’re a parent that’s benefiting, you can’t fully grasp the emotion in the room on a day like today,” she said.
Resnick, a junior at Emory College, no longer chairs the event. He’s passed that responsibility on to his sister, Marissa. “Hard work eventually pays off in the end,” she said about what she learned from her brother. Justin still flies in every year to help with the fundraiser, never too far away from his philanthropic creation.
But the Resnicks can’t do it alone. Forty students from both Jericho and Roslyn High School help organize the event as part of a community service credit offered at both schools.
The work of these volunteers pays off. They raised $83,000 before the event even started. By the end of the afternoon, approximately $90,000 was headed to the Ascent school. The event clearly shows no sign of slowing down.
“We have formed a bond with the families of Ascent,” Lauren Resnick, Justin and Marissa’s mother, said. “We will be there to support that school as long as it remains open.”