Making a Difference Through Grassroots Projects

June 23, 2014
with the winners of the 3x3 Tournament.

Daniel with the winners of the 3×3 Tournament.

Today’s blog was written by PPI grassroots supporter Daniel Shane.

In 2010, I discovered PeacePlayers online while searching for a project for my Bar Mitzvah. PeacePlayers felt like such a good fit for me  because it combined two things that I care about deeply: basketball and making a difference. As a result of the support I received from friends and family, I was able to send a lot of basketballs and supplies over to Israel to support the Middle East program. PeacePlayers had also partnered me with one Jewish girl, one Christian boy, and one Muslim boy who participated in the program and who I was in touch with via email from Toronto. Then in March 2011, I traveled to Israel with my family where I was able to play with one of the teams and have dinner with the family of one of the boys I had been emailing.

After my visit to Israel, I became very busy with high school activities, and I stopped working with PeacePlayers. However, in April 2013, I fractured one of the vertebrae in my back and was told that I would not be able to play sports for over a year. In addition to doing some basketball coaching on my own, I decided to spend some of the time that I would have normally been playing basketball to rekindle my relationship with PeacePlayers and the work that they do.

Players getting in on the action at the 3x3 Tournament.

Players getting in on the action at the 3×3 Tournament.

I decided to run a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at my school for kids in Grades 7-8 and 10-11. I spent several months driving around the city of Toronto, collecting donations and prizes as well as handing out flyers at different basketball arenas and various schools. The tournament took place on April 13th at a venue with 6 nets. I got together teams from schools all over the city and raised close to $2,000 Canadian dollars (over $1,800 in the United States).

I have seen firsthand how PeacePlayers is making a difference in the lives of children from all religious and ethnic backgrounds around the world, which is why I am glad I was able to help them by raising money.


Love of Basketball Makes for a Great Bar Mitzvah Project

May 27, 2014

Alex and his friends participated in a basketball tournament to benefit PeacePlayers International.

Alex and his friends participated in a basketball tournament to benefit PeacePlayers International.

With his Bar Mitzvah just around the corner, 12-year-old Alex Becker from Allentown, PA, began considering what to do for his Bar Mitzvah project when he came across PeacePlayers International. Alex, a huge fan of basketball, saw it as a perfect fit. He organized a basketball tournament for his friends, and his school allowed the use of their facilities for the exciting event. Below, Alex recounts his experience:

Alex (far right) and his friends with their winning trophies.

Alex (far right) and his friends with their winning trophies.

The whole process was pretty easy after getting everything ready. I was lucky my school let me use their gym. The rest was making signs and collecting donations. I didn’t procrastinate so I had just about everything done early. As the day came closer, all I had to do was get my friends excited because all the planning had already been done. When the day of the tournament came, it was a lot of fun – all my friends and I made teams, and we just played for a while. Everyone was clearly having a lot of fun. We also played three games for prizes. The games were a three-point competition, a free throw competition, and Knockout. We had trophies for the winners of the tournament, and whoever won the other games received an iTunes gift card. The whole process was really fun. It was nice knowing that I had so many friends who wanted to play basketball with me and wanted to support a great cause.

Alex's coach stops by to show support for his project.

Alex’s basketball coach stops by to show support for his project.


Sandy Spring Friends School Visits PPI – Northern Ireland

April 17, 2014
Teams from St. Lukes & Belvoir Park Primary Schools with guests from Sandy Springs High School learning about discrimination and stereotypes in sport.

Teams from St. Lukes & Belvoir Park Primary Schools with guests from Sandy Springs High School learning about discrimination and stereotypes in sport.

In March, a group of 16 students from Sandy Spring Friends School visited PPI-Northern Ireland to learn about and support conflict resolution in Belfast. Prior to their visit, the students organized a 3 on 3 basketball tournament at their school and raised over $1,000 for PPI and our work to building bridges between youth in Belfast through basketball. The following blog was written by students Stephanie Stettz and Anna McKay about their visit to Belfast:

Day Four of our adventure in Ireland started at PeacePlayers International, which is the organization we raised money for through the three-on-three basketball tournament.  When we arrived, we were assigned to one of four teams that had both Protestant and Catholic children.  The teams rotated through different activities, including dribbling and shooting drills, and an activity that taught the children about stereotypes and prejudice.

We ended our time with them by learning the PeacePlayers cheer and participating in a group huddle.  It was great to see the amazing work PeacePlayers International is doing and how the money we raised is going to help this organization bring the children of Northern Ireland together.

High school students from Sandy Spring visiting a Peace Wall in Belfast

High school students from Sandy Spring visiting a Peace Wall in Belfast

One of the members of PeacePlayers then took us on a tour to see the murals and the Peace Walls of Belfast.  Our first stop was to see Holy Cross and Wakefield Prep, one famous Catholic and Protestant school affected by the conflict of Northern Ireland.  We learned about the Catholic children and their families who were assaulted as they walked to school through a Protestant neighborhood, and how PeacePlayers had created a good relationship between the two schools.  We then got to see the different murals around Belfast, and ended the tour by signing the largest Peace Wall in Belfast, which is a barrier between a Catholic and Protestant community.


5th Graders Support Friendship Through Sport

April 4, 2014

 

Ben, Matt, Nate, Eli and Max show their support for PPI

Ben, Matt, Nate, Eli and Max show their support for PPI

At Congregation Beth Chaim in West Windsor, NJ, 5th grade students choose a Jewish tzedakkah project to support. The students do all the work, from researching and selecting the charities, to presenting the program to the student body and their parents. This year, five boys chose PeacePlayers as the project they wished to support. In their own words:

We chose Peace Players International as our Mitzvah Mall project because we all love basketball.  We were excited that Jews and Arabs can get more friendly by coming together and playing basketball.  We love our sport but if we can help people who don’t have enough money to play, that’s even better.

The thing that inspires us is that people are standing up for others, even though they don’t have to, through a sport that everyone loves.  It is a good experience to play basketball with others so that, if you ever meet someone different, you will learn that you can be friends no matter what.

Max Lasky

Eli Zaidi

Ben Tomfohrde

Matt Dorfman

Nate Millinger

5th Graders at Congregation Beth Chaim Religious School

 


Finding Friendship at the Cyprus Basketball Camp

August 27, 2013
Anurag (far right) with some of his new friends at the PeacePlayers-Cyprus Summer Camp

Anurag (far right) with some of his new friends at the PeacePlayers-Cyprus Summer Camp

Anurag Reddy, a student at UC Berkeley and sports commentator for Stanford University’s radio station, recently volunteered with PeacePlayers-Cyprus to help them out with their Summer Camp.  Each summer, in the mountain town of Agros, 64 Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth spend a week living together, playing basketball, and building new friendships at the PeacePlayers-Cyprus Basketball Camp. Below Anurag talks about his incredible experience building bridges through sport.

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity to keep busy during the summer, and when I discovered PeacePlayers International, I knew it was a match made in heaven. I have always had a strong passion for the game of basketball, and knew first hand the good it could do.

Anurag with former NBA player and current Assistant Coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Doug Overton

Anurag with former NBA player and current Assistant Coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Doug Overton

Awarded the chance to travel to Cyprus and volunteer for PPI-CY, I was very excited. Before I went to Cyprus, I wanted to do my part and help raise money for Peace Players International. I decided to host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in my neighborhood. It turned out to be a rousing success, drawing more than 40 players, and raising over $140.

When the day finally came to leave for Cyprus, I was hopeful that the trip would be great. My week at the PeacePlayers Cyprus Summer Camp surpassed even my wildest dreams. Everyone was so welcoming, and the kids were terrific. It was nice to be able to bring people together through the beautiful game of basketball. It was also a privilege to be able to work with NBA coach Doug Overton and WBNA champion Kelly Schumacher. They were simply amazing, both with great basketball knowledge as well as the ability to work well with kids. I learned so much from them and the other coaches that I will take with me. Most importantly, I saw the kids show tremendous growth throughout the week, and was grateful that I could be a part of it. Whether it was playing basketball, sharing a meal, or just hanging out with each other, it was a special experience that I will never forget. I was able to forge friendships that will last a lifetime, and I can’t wait to go back next year!


Julia’s Mitzvah WOWs PPI – Middle East

July 17, 2013
Julia (second from left) with Rabbi Robert Levine at Congregation Rodeph Sholom with other students who became bat mitzvah

Julia (second from left) with Rabbi Robert Levine at Congregation Rodeph Sholom with other students who became Bat Mitzvah

Last month, Julia Kruger organized a very successful Mitzvah Project to support our program in the Middle East. Julia chose to raise money for PeacePlayers because she loves sports and is very passionate about the work PeacePlayers does to build friendships and promote peace through basketball.

Julia celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on June 1, 2013 at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York. In her Dvar Torah, or commentary, 13-year-old Julia addressed the congregation and spoke about overcoming our fears:

“Wars often start from one country fearing another and that is because what people fear the most is change and difference.  My mitzvah project PeacePlayers International tries to conquer that fear. PeacePlayers International is an organization founded off the idea that children who play basketball together can learn to live together. In the Middle East where Arabs and Jews fear each other PeacePlayers tries to get children of the two conflicting groups to play together and realize through teamwork, that they can aim towards a common goal.

By being on the same team, they start to discover their similarities and begin to break down some of those fears…which will hopefully in the future make Jews and Arabs less fearful of each other.”

Julia's guests having a blast during the competition

Julia’s guests having a blast during the basketball competition

After the services, Julia and her friends celebrated at a party, and the highlight was a basketball competition for PPI awareness. Julia’s project had an incredible outcome. Through donations and online fundraising, she raised over $30,000 for PPI-ME! The money will help Arab and Jewish children come together to break down long entrenched divides and play for a more peaceful future.

Julia plans to stay involved with PeacePlayers and will continue to spread our good work and news.  A very special thanks to Julia, her family and friends for all of their support.


Ben, Jacob, Sam, and Sammy’s May Madness Tournament Supports PPI

June 19, 2013
Ben, Jacob, Sam, and Sammy ready to play some basketball

Ben, Jacob, Sam, and Sammy ready to play at May Madness

On Sunday, May 5th, four PeacePlayers Sixthmen, Ben Shapiro, Jacob Greenblat, Sam Hull, and Sammy Dickstein hosted a May Madness charity basketball tournament to support PeacePlayers. The four boys are close friends with a shared love of basketball. For their Mitzvah Project, they decided to hold a 3-on-3 half court basketball tournament to give back to the community and those who are less fortunate. They chose to raise awareness and money for two charities that work with young people, PeacePlayers International and Alex Popeck Never Back Down Foundation.

The boys chose PeacePlayers because they are excited about the work we are doing. Sammy Dickstein tells us, “Working together on the event really brought us all together and helped us bond as friends. PeacePlayers is something we wanted to raise money for because they work in countries where there is trouble and try to stop it.”

The tournament was a huge success! It took place at Our Lady of Good Council High School in Olney, MD. 40 teams participated and many friends and family came to watch. The event also had some special guests; including the Washington Wizards Promo Squad and Walt Williams, former NBA and Maryland Terp player, was the tournament referee! There was also delicious food for participants and spectators from the Great American Hot Dog Truck.

Walt Williams joining in on the fun!

Walt Williams joining in on the fun!

The boys are very proud of the tournament and the contributions they made to PeacePlayers. Ben Shapiro says, “The event turned out great, everyone had a fun time. It took a lot of organizing but it was worth it. I wanted to help PeacePlayers International because I like how they use basketball to bring people together and to try and educate them about each other”

Their hard work paid off, May Madness raised almost $3,500 for PeacePlayers. We can’t thank Ben, Jacob, Sam, and Sammy and their families enough for the effort they put into this event. The money they have raised will go towards kids just like them and will further PeacePlayer’s mission to unite, educate, and inspire children from divided communities through basketball.


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