SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A community basketball tournament continues on Saturday morning in Springfield, raising money for a good cause.
The You’re Not Alone basketball tournament aims to raise awareness and funding for mental health support and suicide prevention programs, and it was organized by three high school players. Henry Audette, Ty Bogdanovich, and Tyler McDonald, a trio of Belchertown High School players put the tournament together, recruiting sponsorship from the Center for Human Development and the Springfield Thunderbirds.
The goal is to raise $10,000 and make sure that participating players know how to address suicidal thoughts in themselves or their peers.
“I feel like a lot of kids just don’t know what’s wrong and they don’t know how to deal with it, ” expressed Organizer Ty Bogdanovich, “That can cause people to not know how to handle things and go down the wrong way.”
Organizing tournaments like this is no easy task. The most inspiring part possible of this event it was put together entirely by three players on the court from Belchertown High School. The three co-captains witnessed the effect suicide can have on a community and took it upon themselves to educate their peers on prevention.
They secured the gym, recruited sponsors, got 11 additional teams on board – and even booked a mental health professional to speak to the group. They chose this weekend because Saturday is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.
Co-Organizer Henry Audette told 22News,” A lot of people think it’s a sensitive subject to talk about, so involving basketball which is something that people like to talk about a lot, with an important concept like mental health and suicide prevention, we thought would be a good thing to do and help kids understand what it really is.”
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and has seen a sharp increase in frequency since the start of the pandemic, particularly among young people. More than 45,000 people took their own lives in 2020. Provisional data from 2021 shows that the number increased by about 4 percent last year.
Men ages 15-24 saw one of the largest increases. That community is now a little closer together and educated on how to properly cope with mental health struggles.
The tournament features 12 high school teams, playing games in two divisions with championship games scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the South End Community Center. Each team was encouraged to raise their own donations, and you can make tax-deductible donations online.
“It’s teams that we play during the season. It’s fun to get to see them for the first time without plays or a set coaching style, and it’s just coming out and playing. We’re friends with all these guys and we know how they play,” said Co-Organizer Tyler McDonald.
They’ve raised about $6,500 of their $10,000 goal as of Saturday morning. The tip-off was 8:30 a.m.