For the second time in two years, volunteer basketball teams competed at John F. Kennedy High School to raise money for children’s cancer research.
The Hoops for Sadie tournament last Sunday netted more than $15,000 for the NYU Winthrop Cancer Center for Kids, in honor of Birch School sixth-grader Sadie Freifeld, whose neuroblastoma is currently in remission, thanks to the work done at Winthrop.
Hoops for Sadie began last year after family friend Adam Wohlleben learned of Sadie’s fight against the cancer, which attacked her nervous system. Wohlleben, who organizes the Bellmore-Merrick Basketball League, began putting together a tournament to raise funds and awareness.
“Not only does this event bring the community together,” Wohlleben said, “it also gives people the opportunity to take part in an issue that is near and dear to our hearts.”
Teams of four, with players in grades 4 to 12, entered the tournament, which charged $100 per team. Outside the court, funds were also collected through snack stands, where a smiling Sadie greeted players and supporters.
“This is all really exciting,” said Sadie, 11, of Merrick, sporting her “Hoops for LuvSadie” BMBB shirt. “The whole community came together, and I’m amazed at the amount of people. I didn’t even know it would be this many.”
Sadie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at age 3, and went into remission for almost six years after receiving treatment. She was diagnosed again in March 2017, and again went into remission earlier this year. Sadie went through many hardships and hours of treatment at NYU Winthrop, she said, but she is grateful to have good health now.
“We’re seeing a tremendous outpouring of people,” said her mother, Beth, at the event. “Everyone has come together for a place that has saved my daughter’s life twice.”
While about 100 fewer people attended this year, the event still had almost 300 people, and surpassed its donation goal expectations, Beth said.
The family and organizers were aiming for at least half of last year’s $20,000 collection — an amount the Freifelds were “pleasantly shocked” by, said Sadie’s father, Steven — and they collected more than $15,000 by the end of the event, with more donations coming in the following days.
Susan Lombardo, whose daughter, Billie, is one of Sadie’s best friends, helped organize the first tournament, and told the Herald at the time, “We’re battling this as a community.”
A number of local businesses sponsored the event, including the Douglas Elliman Magelefsky Team, attorney Michael J. Turner, Tomato and Basil Pizzeria, Sentry Communications and Security, Lakeview Mortgage Bankers and the Law Office of John A. Testaiuti.
Mark Weinblatt, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology at Winthrop, visited the event and shared his praise of Sadie.
“Sadie was a real trouper while undergoing treatment,” Weinblatt said. “She rolled with the punches and always kept a positive attitude.”
While Sadie appreciates the attention, she said, the funding that goes to Winthrop to help other young patients is the most important takeaway.
“The money isn’t for us,” Sadie said. “It’s for the hospital, and other kids, too. And no matter what people contribute, even the least amount helps.”