Fundraiser to help send kids to Dallas tournament

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The Minden Patillo TarHeels Organization is hosting its first Bayou Basketball Shootout Tournament this weekend to raise funds to send roughly 30 kids to Dallas for a national championship.

Coach Jerome Blalock says the tournament will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 11, at Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and children five and under are free.

The tournament will include teams from all over the area and even some from out of state. “Every year, we have qualified for this thing called the PrimeTime National Championship,” he said. “It’s very expensive. We play throughout the year, and every tournament we go to, it costs us about $300 to play in one of those tournaments.”

They go between Arkansas, Texas and northeast Louisiana. He says they try to be frugal with the money they do raise, like finding hotels that serve free breakfast, feeding them fairly cheap lunches and providing supper for them.

The Dallas tournament will be four nights and five days. Each child has to pay a fee to go on the trip, but most of these children are underprivileged and come from single parent homes. In the past, some of them have gone on sponsorships, but this year they have not been able to find a sponsor, Blalock says.

Blalock says he started the organization in 2010 with 10 boys to give them something to do, teach them skills and build their character.

“We started because I had a group of boys who wanted to play AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball, and I had a group of boys with the shoot teams around, none of them won it,” he said. “I have twin boys, and my boys and some of their friends got together and we started traveling that year.”

The next year at the first practice, about 25 boys showed up, he says. Last year, they added a girls team, so the organization is up to about 36 boys and girls.

The idea behind the organization, he says, is to do more than just play basketball. Blalock and the others involved mentor the kids, tutor them and give them the opportunity to participate in community service activities. For example, the girls will go to the nursing homes and spend time with the elderly and those who reside there, and the boys recently went to a church needing a paint job and touched up the outside of the building.

“We try to get them involved in civic activities,” he said. “We had (someone) come in and do a town hall meeting with the kids and the parents so the kids can start understanding what it takes to (serve) your community.”

The organization is a nonprofit for boys and girls ages 14-17 who will learn the skills for basketball and sportsmanship. It is year-round, with practices at Ewell Park Recreation Center, where they practice on concrete floors and wooden backboards. At times, they have been allowed to practice at the gym at Webster Junior High School, he says.

Blalock also gave special thanks to Assistant District Attorney Marcus Patillo for his support, financial and otherwise, since the nonprofit’s inception. Blalock says Patillo has sponsored children who might not have otherwise been able to participate in the tournaments.

He also thanked Lakeside Coach Jason Gould and Principal Johnny Rowland for allowing them to use the gym there as well as donating all money raised from concessions.

The TarHeels are led by Blalock, and assistant coaches Darell Banks, Trent Jackson, Keyla Jacobs, Atorri “AJ” Shine and Rashad Wortham.

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