Scoring buckets for a good cause

West Hempstead basketball to hold annual Hoops for Hope game

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“How could you not be inspired by what these schools do?” SIBSPlace Director Suzanne Kornblatt said. “It shows how impactful an act of kindness can be.”

The West Hempstead High School Rams boys’ basketball program is one of several at area schools that dedicate one of their games each year to raising money for SIBSPlace, a Hewlett-based organization that offer supports for children ages 5 to 17 who have a sibling or parent suffering from cancer or another devastating illness. The group has trained volunteers who offer children the chance to engage in therapeutic art and group discussion to improve self-awareness, expression and coping skills.

SIBSPlace is an affiliate of Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside. It was founded in 2000, and Hoops for Hope began in 2004. Since then the charity games have raised over $100,000 for the organization.

Last December, the Rams dedicated their game against Hewlett High School to SIBS-Place, and raised $800 through T-shirt and concession sales and donations. Ed Cosgrove, head coach of the Rams for the past 16 years, will coordinate West Hempstead’s charity game against Hewlett on Dec. 13 at West Hempstead High.

Hewlett’s head basketball coach, Bill Dubin, is a board member of SIBSPlace. He has been involved in Hoops for Hope since its inception. “When I first became involved with SIBSPlace, I had people inquiring with me about the services they provide,” Dubin recalled. “So I figured, why not raise awareness for SIBSPlace through basketball? It’s great that we’re one of the few programs in Nassau County that participates in a charity basketball game.”

Kornblatt, the organization’s director since 2004, noted that one of her first tasks was to write Dubin a thank-you letter after the first Hoops for Hope game between Hewlett and Lawrence. “Ever since I’ve been with SIBSPlace, Bill has been a tremendous supporter and representative for us,” Kornblatt said. “He’s a generous man who understands the power of making others aware of our services.”

SIBSPlace’s assistant director, Joanna Formont, recognized the importance of the basketball games. “This Hoops for Hope initiative empowers the community,” she said. “By making a donation, you’re raising awareness by letting people know that a service like SIBSPlace is available.”

In recent years, Hoops for Hope has extended beyond Hewlett not only to West Hempstead, but also to the Oceanside School District. “This is West Hempstead’s second year and Oceanside’s third year,” Dubin said. “They’ve been tremendous to work with.” He added that the Bethpage School District also joined the effort this season.

“It’s incredibly inspiring that other communities have become involved with Hoops for Hope,” Kornblatt said. “It’s great that we’re making people from all over Nassau County aware of SIBSPlace just by playing basketball games.”

“I find the coaches to be inspiring as well,” she added. “They’re teaching their team sportsmanship while making them aware that services such as SIBSPlace are available to those in need.”

In the four Hoops for Hope games set for this season, Bethpage will host North Shore on Dec. 3, Hewlett will visit West Hempstead on Dec. 13, Hewlett will host Glen Cove on Jan. 25 and Oceanside will host Syosset, most likely in late January as well.

Dubin said there is no set goal for donations. “The final number of donations isn’t the most important thing to me,” he said. “I just want people to enjoy the moment, while also become aware that an organization like SIBSPlace is available to them.”

The SIBSPlace offices are at 1420 Broadway in Hewlett. The group can be reached at (516) 374-3000.

Nakeem Grant contributed to this story.