Hoops for Hyde Park raffle benefits local schools

The organization raised more than $4,000 for two local elementary schools.

By Jake Walerius

The Women’s Athletic Association held their annual Hoops for Hyde Park fundraising raffle at the women and men’s basketball games against Emory on Friday, January 27. The organization raised more than $4,000 for two local elementary schools, Fuller Elementary and Woodlawn Elementary Community School. The money will go toward new equipment for the schools’ physical education departments.

The raffle was made possible through weeks of fundraising and ticket selling carried out by roughly 150 members of the WAA.

“We sold raffle tickets to anyone and everyone,” WAA President Casey Capozzoli said. “We sold them to athletes, parents, friends, coaches, trainers, professors, facility staff—anyone. We even sold two tickets to Emory’s women’s assistant basketball coach.”

On top of the money raised by raffle tickets, sold for one dollar a piece, the major financial contribution to the event came from businesses that donated prizes, money, or both. Notable donations included five $100 cash-prizes and two round-trip plane tickets donated by Anthony Travel.

This was Hoops for Hyde Park’s 24th year, and the most successful in a program that has raised over $30,000 since 1989. For many years, Hoops for Hyde Park, formerly known as the Shootout, raised money for the Special Olympics, whose Chicago area tournament was hosted at Stagg Field. When that competition moved away, however, the WAA preferred to donate their money somewhere closer to home and chose two schools recommended by the Neighborhood Schools Program.

“This fundraiser means a lot to us,” Capozzoli said. “As athletes at the University of Chicago, we have so much available to us. We’ve had a lot of opportunities growing up that made it possible for us to be here.

“Athletics shape who you are and help you grow as a person, and this event is a way for us to help provide for young kids who don’t have the basics that make it possible to succeed.”

Events like Hoops for Hyde Park are one way to dispel the illusion that University community is isolated from the larger Hyde Park community.

“For me, the most difficult thing about living in Hyde Park is that students often never leave the bubble of the quads,” WAA secretary Julia Sizek said, “and one of my goals is to get rid of the assumption that Hyde Park, our community, is separate from the University.”

It seems that any isolation the U of C may feel from its community exists largely due to our own failure to reach out to that community. But the WAA realizes the importance of many Hyde Park businesses in making their event possible.

“We greatly appreciate all the support we receive,” WAA co-vice president Kim Cygan said. “A lot of the prizes we receive are from local businesses, which students go to regularly, which is a great incentive for them to buy raffle tickets. It’s awesome how generous they are in their donations and how much they contribute to the success of our event.”

The Emory game showed the best of our University in and out of competition. It may have been a coincidence that Matt Johnson’s record-breaking-ESPN-featuring buzzer-beater fell on the evening of the Hoops for Hyde Park event, but it still gave the night a little extra pizazz. It was, it seems, a fitting sendoff to the event’s most successful year to date.

Ultimately, Hoops for Hyde Park is about the Hyde Park schools that benefit from it. Cygan understands better than most how important this event is to them.

“Casey (Capozzoli) and I had the opportunity to present the check to Fuller two years ago and participate in a field day. It was incredible to see how thankful the school was and it was really fun getting to participate in a field day at the school where the money was going,” she said.

The concept behind Hoops for Hyde Park isn’t complicated. But it’s incredibly effective, and after 24 years and over $30,000, it’s a basic reminder that no matter how busy you may be, there is always something worth making time for. For the WAA, that thing is giving other kids the same opportunities they have, doing what they love.

“We are grateful for the community’s support and the people who come to our competitions. That means a lot to us,” Capozzoli said. “But, mostly, it’s our love for sport that makes us appreciate being able to help the schools in our area bring that to their students.”