For the first time—though they hope not the last—members of the University’s men’s basketball team joined with their classmates, coaches, and fellow Middletown community members to launch the Cardinal Community Classic basketball tournament.
Thirty-five teams participated in the inaugural three-on-three tournament, held on Sunday, April 15 in the Silloway Gymnasium. The event raised over $3,000 for Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer Treatment Center.
The idea to host a tournament originated with Jordan Bonner ’19, a member of the men’s basketball team, as a way to support a cause that has both impacted him personally and resonates widely across communities.
“The idea for this event was one that I had been thinking of for a while,” Bonner wrote in an email to The Argus. “Because of my aunt, who is a survivor of breast cancer, I really wanted to put together an event to honor her and support people who are going through the same journey. I could not put this event together on my own however. I shared the idea with my friends and teammates and other groups on campus, and the incredible commitment and teamwork I’ve seen in the past weeks were vital to making this event a reality.”
Bonner recruited friends Lina Marzouk ’19 and Ernesto Vargas, owner of Finesse Cuts on Main Street, as his partners in organizing the tournament. Basketball team members JR Bascom ’18, Jordan Sears ’18, and Brandon Morris ’19 played integral roles in managing the event’s logistics, as did Assistant Coaches William Battaglia and Tyler Gaffaney. Additionally, members of the University’s men’s and women’s basketball teams volunteered their time as referees, scorers, and greeters during the tournament.
Bascom and Bonner met with members of the community to secure donations for tournament and raffle prizes.
“Jordan Bonner and I walked down Main Street and met with Middletown Business owners to donate gift cards, movie passes, et cetera,” Bascom said.
Marzouk dealt largely with managing the business and financial aspects of the tournament.
“During the day of the tournament I was also able to finalize the amount we fundraised, made sure that all of the donated food was picked up and served on time and checked in with volunteers regularly and in that way contributed to the tournament going smoothly,” she wrote in an email to The Argus.
The tournament was open to teams from both the University and Middletown communities. According to Marzouk, one of the event’s major successes was prompting interaction between city’s residents, on and off campus.
“People were enjoying themselves, getting excited about the games and mingling,” Marzouk wrote. “Since one of our goals was to bridge a gap that we noticed between Wesleyan and Middletown as we fundraised for the Comprehensive Breast Center at Middlesex Hospital it was really awesome to see that we both fundraised an impressive donation and saw the communities come together in a meaningful way.”
Bascom expressed satisfaction with the generosity of businesses that provided the food and prizes for the tournament.
“Overall I was very pleased with how everything turned out,” he said. “We were able to raise a lot of money as well as put a great event together. We were happy with how many teams we got to play (35), how many businesses we had donate raffle prizes, how much food Usdan and ‘Swings [donated] and how many people showed up. Overall it was a great first go at something we plan on becoming a yearly event.”
Given the success of this first tournament, Bonner and his fellow organizers look forward to expanding their reach in the coming years, raising more money for a diverse set of causes.
“While the inaugural Cardinal Community Classic was initiated to support marginalized individuals facing breast cancer in the community, we’ve realized that there are many other worthy causes that we would like to support in the coming years,” Bonner wrote. “To that end, we envision reaching other organizations that provide resources to these individuals.”
Marzouk also looks forward to increasing the reach of the tournament, which in turn will continue forging bonds between Middletown and the University.
“I hope it’s a way for Wesleyan and Middletown to have a sustainable connection,” she wrote. “It was cool that we raffled donated gift cards and other items from local businesses because that also means that in the short-term students are going to be going to places like Mondo’s or Navy Nails among other businesses to use their prizes and hopefully frequent Middletown more often that just staying on the campus.”
Ultimately, Bonner hopes to set up a scholarship fund, through which proceeds from the tournament can reach a variety of community organizations.
“Our hope is that in subsequent years, we can establish a Cardinal Community Classic scholarship fund that can be awarded to Middlesex Hospital’s Comprehensive Breast Cancer and other entities that are doing similar work.”
Molly Schiff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.