Northeast Times

Leukemia Crusade

“We're go­ing to play bas­ket­ball and stuff our faces all night while rais­ing money for a great cause. How can you beat that?” — Fath­er Judge seni­or An­thony Walk­er on the school's bas­ket­ball mara­thon.

Fath­er Judge stu­dents par­ti­cip­ate in the 40th an­nu­al Bas­ket­ball Mara­thon to fight leuk­emia Wed­nes­day even­ing.

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In this day and age, it’s dif­fi­cult enough to get high school stu­dents ex­cited to be at school dur­ing nor­mal hours, which is why it was so eye-open­ing to see Fath­er Judge pu­pils knock down the doors to stay overnight last week.

For 24 hours from Thursday to Fri­day af­ter­noon, Judge held its 40th an­nu­al bas­ket­ball mara­thon to raise money for leuk­emia pro­grams. Those as­so­ci­ated with the school are not strangers to the cause, but for the first time in 20 years, the event was re­stored as an all-night mara­thon.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., about 250 stu­dents were locked in Judge’s bas­ket­ball gym­nas­i­um at 3301 Solly Ave. to take part in three-on-three and five-on-five bas­ket­ball games to be­ne­fit the Leuk­emia & Lymph­oma So­ci­ety.

The primary ques­tion: How on Earth would so many people be able to stay in one place for so long while ex­ert­ing them­selves play­ing bas­ket­ball?

“Two cases of Red Bull ought to do the trick,” joked seni­or class pres­id­ent Pat Hash­er.

The ex­cite­ment for the event was ubi­quit­ous, and ex­ten­ded throughout the 24 hours. Stu­dents, par­ents and alumni gladly offered their time and dona­tions, and those in at­tend­ance en­joyed a vis­it from the Phil­lie Phanat­ic, as well as get­ting a chance to hon­or re­cently re­tired teach­er Ed Mooney, who foun­ded the mara­thon in 1972.

The Lock-In for Leuk­emia cul­min­ated on Fri­day af­ter­noon with the event’s crown jew­el, a fac­ulty vs. stu­dents bas­ket­ball game.

“I don’t per­son­ally know any­one who has leuk­emia, but I do know how happy people get when we do this every year,” said An­thony Walk­er, a Judge seni­or foot­ball play­er and stu­dent coun­cil mem­ber. “Any­time we can do something to help oth­er people, that’s what it’s all about. We all come to­geth­er and have a great time while help­ing oth­ers. We’re go­ing to play bas­ket­ball and stuff our faces all night while rais­ing money for a great cause. How can you beat that?”

Most schools can’t beat it, which is why the com­munity re­ac­tion has re­mained stead­fast for 40 years. The re­sur­rec­tion of the all-night as­pect ad­ded a fresh, ex­cit­ing wrinkle to the event that stu­dents and alumni from the last 20 years did not get to ex­per­i­ence. That’s also why it was a fairly com­mon sight to see people con­tinu­ously en­ter­ing the gym­nas­i­um with sleep­ing bags and pa­ja­mas.

The stu­dent coun­cil mem­bers got the ball rolling over the sum­mer, eager to ex­per­i­ence the le­gendary all-night tales they’d heard about from their fath­ers and uncles who’d gone to Judge be­fore them. With the help of the Rev. Jack Ko­lodziej, as­sist­ant prin­cip­al for stu­dent af­fairs, the 24-hour dur­a­tion was re­in­sti­tuted and en­abled the school to raise close to $12,000. The fig­ure is al­most double what the school typ­ic­ally had raised dur­ing the all-day mara­thons.

Ko­lodziej ex­pects the total to keep climb­ing as dona­tions con­tin­ue to ar­rive.

“The stu­dents made it a pri­or­ity to bring back the overnight ele­ment,” he said. “They really pushed for it. It took a while, and we don’t an­ti­cip­ate it every year, but for the for­ti­eth an­niversary we had to bring it back.”

What brought a lot of people back was the chance to hon­or Mooney, the ar­chi­tect of this event.

“Mr. Mooney is a Fath­er Judge hall of famer, and he’s why I con­tin­ue to come back,” said Jeff Long, a 1978 Judge gradu­ate who has sent his three sons to the school. “I re­mem­ber this get­ting star­ted right around the time I was a stu­dent here, so there’s al­ways an ex­cite­ment around this time, and the kids have done such a good job keep­ing it go­ing. I think Mr. Mooney is the reas­on most people are here, not ne­ces­sar­ily just to hon­or him, but his in­flu­ence keeps them com­ing back. He and so many Judge teach­ers have helped shape these kids in­to gen­tle­men. People like him teach the kids real-life ex­amples on how to live. We’re all very proud to be Judge gradu­ates, and it’s one of those things that al­ways stays with you no mat­ter how old you get.”

Mooney star­ted the event as a young teach­er be­cause fam­ily mem­bers of two stu­dent coun­cil mem­bers had been dia­gnosed with leuk­emia, and he wanted to help the stu­dents through their dif­fi­cult times. With the help of the stu­dent coun­cil, Mooney planned a one-time mara­thon, but it was so pop­u­lar that it was ex­ten­ded for a second year, then a third, and on it went.

“When you go to a Cath­ol­ic school like Judge, one of the things you’re told is that you must give back,” said Mooney, who re­tired from teach­ing three years ago. “It’s a pretty easy way to do it when you make it fun and in­volve bas­ket­ball. After a few years, we just de­cided not to stop this. The best thing for me is that I’ve been here for all forty, wheth­er it was play­ing or just help­ing to or­gan­ize it. Even though the stu­dent coun­cil changes every year, they still re­main de­term­ined to keep this event go­ing, and that to me is the most amaz­ing part.”

What keeps Mooney com­ing back, aside from rais­ing money for a good cause, is the memor­ies he has cre­ated with so many stu­dents. The strength of the Judge com­munity has been over­power­ing, and ac­cord­ing to Mooney, no school in the area has raised money for a cause over so many con­sec­ut­ive years.

ldquo;The best part about it is to see all of the people who come back and re­mem­ber their time at Judge so fondly,” Hash­er said. “That’s why we keep do­ing it forty years later, to cre­ate those memor­ies that will stick with us forever and al­low us to come back twenty years from now and meet a new wave of stu­dents who are keep­ing it go­ing. We’re not like every oth­er school, and I think this event proves that.”

Mooney con­curred.

“It takes a spe­cial group of people to start something like this, but it takes even more spe­cial people to keep it go­ing over the years,” he said. “None of them are will­ing to say, ‘No, we’re not go­ing to do this any­more,’ and that’s really a cred­it to these kids. I’m so proud of them, and am just honored to still be a part of it.” ••

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You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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