Each summer 10 teams — both local and from as far away as New York City and New Jersey — come to Horton Avenue Park to participate in the Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament.
Gearing up to host their 11th tournament this August, co-founders Dwayne Eleazer and Larry Williams are seeking to upgrade equipment at the park.
To spearhead those efforts, the duo is hosting a fundraising dinner and dance next weekend.
“Nobody has that kind of money to give away,” Mr. Eleazer said. “We figured if we got the community together in a fundraiser everyone can help get the money.”
The desired upgrades include new backboards, padding for the steel poles holding the basketball hoops in place, and a raised scoreboard to replace the current tabletop scoreboard, which is difficult for spectators and players to see.
“It’ll make it safer for one thing, as far as the play goes,” Mr. Williams said of the padding. “And it’s nicer to have a different type of backboard than the ones that are currently there.”
Mr. Eleazer and Mr. Williams were Named the News-Review’s 2016 Community Leaders of the Year for 10 successful years running the tournament. The two-day event that aims to get young people off the streets and onto the court.
The hope is that as the players become involved in the community and with the other players on the court it’ll help persuade them from engaging in troubling or violent behaviors.
“It’s very important for us, as residents in the community, to stay together,” Mr. Eleazer said. “We need to stop the violence that’s killing so many young men and women over … If you meet someone in a setting like basketball you might be like, ‘I know him from the game and he’s a good dude,’ so if you met in the street and something did happen you’d probably think again before you act violently.”
This year’s tournament is scheduled for Aug. 12-13. But bringing the community together is about more than one weekend, the organizers said.
Mr. Eleazer said he hopes he and Mr. Williams can be faces in the community to whom youth can turn for help. They’re hoping to raise enough money over time to help fund participation in sports programs such as Police Athletic League soccer and football, for kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
“I think it’s important because there’s a lot of young kids who have not had a chance to get involved in different things,” Mr. Eleazer said. “When they don’t get involved in things, they find criminal activity, I think. If we can get these kids and get their minds set on doing good things, I think it’s a positive thing.”
The dinner and dance will be held Saturday, June 3, at the Moose Lodge in Riverhead from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. It will feature door prizes — many of them donated by local businesses — a buffet-style dinner and open bar for four hours. Tickets are $55 per person or $100 per couple and can be purchased by emailing [email protected] in advance of the event.
File photo: Dwayne Eleazer (left) and Larry Williams were honored in March as the News-Review’s 2016 Community Leaders of the Year. The Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament founders are seeking to upgrade equipment at Horton Avenue Park, where the annual event takes place. (Credit: David Benthal)