All sorts of boundaries seemed to disappear on the basketball court at Eaglecrest High School on March 3.
The lines between students, teachers and staff blurred, as teams composed of players of all ages met in the gym for a series of friendly pick-up games known as "Swish For A Wish." All proceeds from the event went toward different charities championed by Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Grandview and Overland high schools. Teachers played alongside their students, security guards fielded passes from advisors and coaches had a chance to prove sports theory on the court.
Though the teams themselves were there to win, the games lacked the fury and furor of a typical tournament between district rivals. Instead, everyone on the court seemed to be playing for the same basic purpose. Though members of the crowd cheered loudly for family members and friends from their home school, the overarching mood was one of support for every player.
The normal loyalties softened during the fundraiser; there was a greater purpose behind these games, and everyone knew it.
"For me, it's not a competition. It's a way to get together for a good cause," said Melissa LaFerrara, student leadership advisor at Eaglecrest High School. LaFerrera worked with colleagues to launch the multi-school event five years ago. "When we're collecting money at the door, I can't tell you how many people purchase a ticket and then just say, 'Keep the change.' It's seeing how generous our community is, and it's really, really touching."
At Eaglecrest, the games capped off "Miracle Month," four full weeks dedicated to raising money for the Easter Seal Organization and the school's Unified Team, which is made up students with intellectual or physical disabilities and their typically developing peers. Specifically, the Eaglecrest community worked to give students the opportunity to attend an Easter Seals summer camp that stresses teamwork, athletics and outdoor fun.
"Students are able to do things that they wouldn't be able to do without these funds," LaFerrara said. "Students from our Integrated Learning Center programs have applied to be nominated to go to the camps … We've been holding a variety of events, trying to raise money for this cause."
The Eaglecrest campaign for Easter Seals was only one of four that benefitted from community support and participation during the Swish For A Wish event. Every school collected money during the event; all proceeds went to a specific charitable campaign. Overland, Grandview and Cherokee Trail sponsored children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting children suffering from life-threatening diseases with resources to make their dreams come true. For example, Overland's sponsored child will be able to visit Disneyland with his family, thanks to funds raised through the school's campaign.
That spirit of giving and generosity was at the heart of the "Swish For A Wish" games held in the Eaglecrest gym.
"Overall, there's a camaraderie with everyone getting together," LaFerrara said. "It's not the same intensity as a normal basketball game, when it's Eaglecrest against a different school. We're all coming together for a really, really good cause."
The students weren't alone in their commitment to a cause greater than themselves. Will Baird, an FBLA advisor, teacher and coach, joined his fellow Grandview High School community members on the court. The "Swish For A Wish" event was a chance to connect to the community in a new way, even as they contributed to a greater cause.