Shooting for Sophia returns to help local family

(Katie Morrison)

Last summer, Marblehead High student-athletes Billy Ackerman and Derek Marino banded together in a very short time and organized the first annual Shooting for Sophia 3-on-3 basketball tournament in order to raise money for a family friend in 11-year old Sophia Smith. Now, after having nearly a full year to plan it out, the tournament will be back and better than ever in its second running.

“The first year was a big success, we were able to raise over $2,000 for the (Smith) family,” said Ackerman, who will be entering his senior year at Marblehead High this fall. “And the best part was that Sophia absolutely loved it.”

Smith, now age 12, was only given 9-18 months to live after she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain tumor in March 2017. There are no known cures in the United States so the Smith family has traveled to London many times for treatment, but their insurance doesn’t cover the medical expenses, housing or airfare.

All proceeds from the tournament will be donated to Sophia and her family. It costs $15 per person to register, and boys and girls ages 14-21 are eligible to participate. Anyone wishing to sign up for the event can visit and click on the “Shooting for Sophia” link.

The tournament will be held Thursday, July 19 at 6 p.m. at Gatchell’s Park in Marblehead.

The website for signing up is just one of the new ways Ackerman is organizing the tournament this year. Last year, many people showed up the day of the tournament with teams hoping to register all at once, which was something that the organizers were not entirely prepared for. This year, the website will allow full teams to register beforehand as well as allow single players to register.

Which is good, because the theme for this year is more, more, more. More teams registering will mean more money, which means the Smith family will get even more help.

“We’re hoping to get a lot more teams this year because everyone has more notice, so that will be good,” Ackerman said. “Our goal right now is to just get the word out and make sure as many people as possible know about the tournament and how to sign up.”

Ackerman also pointed out that he would love to see more girls teams sign up this year, as the tournament pool was male-dominated last year.

Groom Construction will sponsor the event by providing jerseys, which participants will get to keep.

As for Sophia, Ackerman keeps in touch with her quite often. She even came out to a Marblehead boys basketball game this past winter to support Ackerman, Marino and their teammates.

“She’s the best, I try to talk to her as much as I can,” said Ackerman, who plays basketball and tennis at Marblehead High. “My mom has been friends with her mom since they were in high school and our families have been really close for a long time.”

More information on Sophia’s journey can be found on the cause’s Facebook page by searching #armsaroundSophia. Those interested in contributing can make a donation to the Sophia Smith Fund at National Grand Bank or by purchasing t-shirts, bracelets or stickers at Village Pharmacy.

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