13th Annual 3-On-3 Match To Benefit Children With Autism

Alley Oop for Autism is entering its 13th year at Jericho High School.
(Photos by Alley Oop for Autism)

This isn’t the BIG3 basketball league. It’s much more special than that.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. It’s time to spread awareness about autism spectrum disorders, which affects one in 59 children, according to Autism Speaks.

A local initiative is attempting to do what it can to raise awareness for those who are impacted by autism in the community. For the 13th straight year, Alley Oop for Autism will come to Jericho High School on April 13, raising awareness and money for two local organizations that are determined to help families who have children with autism.

Justin Resnick, founder of the tournament, came up with the idea as a junior at Jericho High School with his family. The idea: To have a 3-on-3 basketball contest to help those with autism.

“I was looking for a way to give back,” Resnick said. “I had been around kids who have special needs for a while because my mom owned an early intervention agency. I ended up visiting the Ascent School for Autism in Deer Park. They provide one-to-one student to teacher ratio. It’s called applied behavior analysis (ABA). It’s the only proven way to treat and educate kids with autism.”

Resnick set out on a mission. He was determined to make a difference.

But when he first pitched his idea to Jericho High School’s athletic director at the time, he was rejected. The reasons were weak, including scheduling problems and insurance ones.

Resnick reached out to coaches of varsity teams that would potentially have practices during his tournament. They agreed to move them accordingly. And he even found an insurance policy for the event.

The answer was still no. So he went to Superintendent Henry Grishman, who not only approved of Alley Oop for Autism, but made sure parents and students alike would be involved.

Last year, Alley Oop for Autism surpassed the $1 million mark. Each tournament has raised about $100,000, and the expectation for this year’s event is no different.

“We end up raising almost $20,000 a year in cash on the day of the event,” Resnick said. “Everything that we sell at the event has been donated. We go out and scour the community to find people to donate items. We have a raffle and a silent auction. This year, it can be from 250 to 350 participants.”

The tournament will consist of eight games at a time. The clock will be set at 15 minutes, and the team that reaches 15 points first or is up at the buzzer will move onto the next round. All players are guaranteed at least three games on the day of the event.

This competition has been a hit for students, teachers, staff and parents alike over the years. But when the event first started, the goal was $10,000. Resnick never thought it would become such a massive fundraiser.

“The day of the event, you see signs saying ‘Alley Oop For Autism’ and all of the tables,” Resnick said. “You hear this contagious noise of the squeaking on the floor, the balls bouncing, kids yelling and parents yelling. The energy in the gym is truly remarkable.”

Students from not only Jericho High School, but from the neighboring Syosset and Roslyn schools are also involved in the event’s planning. There is a committee consisting of about 30 students from the different schools, encouraging teenagers to make a difference. And they have done exactly that.

“One of the people coming is Michelle Athenas, who won four gold medals in powerlifting during the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi,” Resnick said. “She has autism, ADHD and is bipolar, so she knows first hand why there’s a need for places like the Family Center for kids with special needs. Miss New York (Nia Franklin) and Miss New York Teen (Hailey Germano) will also be there.”

The competition, which lasts from noon to 6:30 p.m., will benefit the Family Center for Autism in Garden City and Life’s WORC in Mineola for its Day Habilitation Program. Until three years ago, funds went directly to the Ascent School for Autism, but they changed charities just to spread the love a bit more.

Overall, about 1,000 people are expected to pack into the gym for this cause. To find out how to sign up or sponsor the event, locals can visit www.alleyoopforautism.org.

What did you think of this article? Share your thoughts with me at jwolkin@anton

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