MARBLEHEAD — The power of a community can often be understated. Sometimes all it takes is a small act of kindness for that power to be shown.
Thursday afternoon, Marblehead High senior Billy Ackerman and his former teammate Derek Marino (who’ll start his freshman year at Bates College this fall) organized the second annual “Shooting for Sophia” 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Gatchell Park in Marblehead. The event served as a fundraiser for Sophia Smith, a 12 year-old Marblehead resident who was diagnosed with a rare inoperable brain tumor a little over a year ago. Ackerman and Marino are both close family friends with Smith and they wanted to do whatever they could to help. And not just them, but their families as well. Tracy Ackerman and Kathy Marino, mothers of the respective former teammates, also carried a big role in the event.
“It’s our second year now, and we learned some things from the first year,” said Tracy Ackerman, who coaches the girls tennis team at Marblehead High. “With a little more planning and more time to get the word out, we made this into an even bigger event.”
Despite last year’s event being put together at the last minute, it was a big success. The event saw around 20 teams compete and just over $2,000 was raised for the Smith family. But this year, with the help of a little extra planning, the event expanded.
For starters, several local companies offered to sponsor the event however they could. Groom Construction donated more than 80 reversible pinnie jerseys for the players to wear in the tournament. Cafe Vesuvius donated a number of pizzas and refreshments, while Village Pharmacy donated balloons to decorate the park. A group of referees donated their time to come and help out. The Marblehead cheerleaders also donated their time to come and cheer on the teams as well as show off some personalized cheers for Sophia, who was in attendance.
“It means a lot to have the whole community come together around (Sophia) like this,” said Billy Ackerman, who plays on the boys basketball and tennis teams at Marblehead. “No one fights harder than her, and having the community back her up and get behind her fight is just awesome.”
And of course, most importantly, more teams showed up to play this year. The event saw 32 teams from Marblehead and surrounding communities compete, bringing in over $2,500 for the Smith family. Participants ranging in ages from 14 to 21 took part in the event.
“The turnout has just been amazing,” said Kathy Marino. “We’ve gotten tons of donations from so many different people, it’s really just been so great.”
And while it’s not exactly about the basketball, it should be noted that the team of Bo Millett, Patrick Bugler and Justin Faia (all Marblehead natives) finished at the top of the bracket.
The $2,500 will help Sophia and her family with the costs incurred by her illness, as she needs to travel overseas for treatment often. Since there are no known cures in the U.S., the Smith family has traveled to London approximately 10 times and their health insurance doesn’t cover the medical expenses, housing or airfare.
“I’m just psyched that we’re able to do this for her again,” Tracy Ackerman said. “We’re very close friends with the family, and we know this means a lot for them. It’s great to see that the entire community sees how important this is too.”