If I were giving advice to anyone planning a community event, it would be to expect the unexpected. Have a Plan B for every detail and be ready to switch gears at a moment’s notice. My most recent endeavor was a fundraiser for The Right Place, a housing assistance agency.
In a remarkable effort to combat homelessness in our area, The Right Place built a series of “tiny homes” (450 square feet) on Circle Drive in Anniston behind their offices. More will be constructed when funds become available, but for those still living on the streets, the agency provides things like sleeping bags or blankets.
The fundraiser I had in mind was a Doctors vs. Lawyers basketball game.
I’m no rocket scientist, but I knew we couldn’t have a ballgame without players. I set about approaching a few, to gauge their interest. Dr. Mike Kline, my daughter’s high school basketball coach, was the first who agreed to play, followed by Dr. Terry Phillis.
On the lawyerly side, I contacted Drew Senter, who also said yes and gave me the names of other attorneys who might be interested.
I began creating lists. Those who wanted to play, those who didn’t want to play and those who just laughed. George Monk, for example, told me he’d play, but only if we had paramedics standing by.
Once both teams were set, I turned my attention to jerseys. Each player told me what number he wanted and I got busy assisting with “weeding” vinyl, then heat pressing 120 letters and 60 numbers onto 20 T-shirts, front and back. (I can now mark that little adventure off my bucket list.)
The date chosen for the game was the last Sunday in August at 2 p.m. I had 50 posters printed to publicize the event.
I spent an entire day driving from medical office to law office to restaurants and various businesses that would agree to display a poster in their window.
No sooner had I finished than I received word that a former Anniston resident, a retired physician who was well respected in the community, had died. A local memorial service would be held for him the last Sunday in August — at 2 p.m.
I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Should I keep the game as is or reschedule it? I didn’t want any players or spectators, especially those in the medical community, to feel conflicted.
I grabbed my phone and texted all the doctors and lawyers. “If we delay the game start until 5 p.m.,” I asked, “will you still play?” Only one lawyer had to bow out. Tim Mitchell took his place.
I quickly had new posters printed with the revised game time and, the very next day, hit all the places I had visited the day before. It was my own little version of “Groundhog Day.”
At home, in front of the computer, I designed a basketball program that would contain fun facts about each player, such as their favorite movies and books. It was like pulling teeth to get that information out of some of them. (I’m looking at you, Teddy Copland.)
A few days before the game, I got word from Lori Floyd, the director of The Right Place, that their insurance company wanted all players to sign a liability waiver.
WHAT??? Are you kidding me? What if the players don’t want to sign? Will we have to cancel the game?
I put my head on my desk and willed myself not to cry because I heard somewhere that there’s no crying in basketball — or something like that.
I grabbed my phone again and fired up the texts. “Will you sign a liability waiver?” Fortunately, they all said “yes,” and I was able to turn my attention back to the 10 million other things I had to do.
Game day arrived. Board members and agency staff met me at the gym early to set up concessions, admission tables and the sound system. The players streamed in, as did the spectators, and once young Ramsey Whitney put the finishing notes on her awesome rendition of the national anthem, we had ourselves an exciting ballgame going on.
It was obvious these guys weren’t afraid to get physical. I’d call them “competitive,” but that’s a polite understatement. At the end of the first half, the score was close, but in the second half, the doctors broke away and carried their team to victory.
The real winner, of course, is The Right Place, which took in close to $6,000 that afternoon. For the benefit of families living in cars or under overpasses, for whom the agency purchases such things as socks and toilet paper, umbrellas and gloves, that kind of money is going to go a long way.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.