After school one afternoon in 2004, seventh-grade physics teacher Andy Virtue ’00 gathered with fellow teachers at Springton Lake Middle School in Media, Pa. They were planning a pick-up basketball game in which students would compete against teachers. It soon became apparent that most of the student body was planning to attend the game.
As anticipation built, Virtue recruited other teachers to work the event, and had the idea to charge admission. It was a sell-out, with more than 300 tickets sold in less than two days.
That first game raised $600. The money was sent to Hope Academy, Springton Lake’s “sister” school for underprivileged youth in Masaka, Uganda.
When Virtue started teaching at Springton Lake in 2001, the school already was involved in programs to benefit Hope Academy, but no major fundraisers had been organized. “Hoops for Hope,” became an annual event.
“It keeps growing each year,” Virtue says. “We now have more than 60 teachers working the game, and the step team and cheerleaders perform.”
Teachers keep score, tear tickets and supervise students. Another Cabrini alumni, health and physical education teacher William Carr ’96, is involved in Hoops for Hope as well. (Carr leads Cabrini men’s basketball in all-time career points and was inducted into the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.)
Since that first game, Hoops for Hope has raised more than $10,000 for Hope Academy. The money provides necessary equipment and facilities at the school, like a modern bathroom with running water, which is rare in Masaka, and helps defer tuition costs for the many students orphaned by AIDS.
One year, game proceeds paid for chicken eggs; students sold some eggs in town, hatched the rest of them, and raised the chickens. Springton Lake’s fundraising also has contributed desks, library books, and computers for Hope Academy.
As for his goal in his own classroom, Virtue hopes to instill in each of his 105 students an inquisitive nature, where they are compelled to seek answers.
“The biggest reward is seeing them make discoveries in the lab and solve their own problems,” Virtue says. “They get this look on their faces where you know something has clicked.” He also is proud to see them display enthusiasm for helping others less fortunate than themselves.
“All of this originated from just wanting to play basketball with the students after school,” Virtue says.
(Andy Virtue will receive the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Award for Community Service during Alumni Weekend, June 4-5.)