By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
SPRINGFIELD -- Football legend Doug Flutie loves to play basketball. He also loves his son, Dougie Jr., who was diagnosed with a form of autism at age three. This month, he'll be combining his loves for an important cause.
The first ever Doug Flutie Celebrity Rock 'n Hoops event will be taking place April 16 at the Basketball Hall of Fame in downtown Springfield. The charity event will benefit the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
The evening will start with a celebrity basketball game featuring two teams the Court Jesters Comedy Basketball group taking on a team made up of Doug Flutie, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his daughter, Boston College student and "American Idol" contestant Ayla Brown, Derek Kellogg, coach of men's basketball at UMass Amherst; BC alum and former Boston Celtic Dana Barros, and members of the Elms College men's basketball team.
"Doug called the Hall of Fame to set this up, and we do a lot of work with the Hall of Fame. They recommended us and the rest is history," Andrew Eckman, founder of the Court Jesters, said.
He explained that the Court Jesters travel around the country and world hosting charity basketball games in the style of the Harlem Globetrotters to raise funds for a variety of causes. They usually play against a team from the community they travel to.
"It's going to be exciting and a lot of fun," Eckman said of the charity event. "It'll be great for the community and great for the foundation."
The primary goal of the Flutie Foundation is to promote awareness and support families affected by autism spectrum disorders. It is committed to funding organizations that provide direct services, family support grants, education, advocacy and recreational opportunities with the purpose of improving the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families.
In December, the foundation awarded two grants to local organizations: Elms College received $14,160 to fund scholarships for graduate students enrolled in the ASD Certificate Program, and Community Resources for People with Autism was awarded $19,980 for direct family support grants.
"We are humbled and honored to be a part of this," Ed Silva, men's basketball coach at Elms, said. He selected three captains from his team to participate in the event who he thought "would love the opportunity."
Silva, before becoming a coach, noted that he had worked with children with autism in the past. "Everybody knows somebody dealing with a child with autism," he said. "It's something that really challenges families. It really merits a lot of attention and fundraising."
The Flutie family realized how blessed they were to have the financial resources to offer the best in education and care for Dougie and established the foundation to help other families who were struggling, according to Director of Marketing and Events for the Flutie Foundation Kerri Blume.
"April is Autism Awareness Month, and we used to do a basketball game every year in Boston," Blume told Reminder Publications. "It wasn't coming together this year so we thought it would be great to do something in Springfield, the Birthplace of Basketball."
Blume added that the Celebrity Rock 'n Hoops event is a way to open up the foundation to the public and demonstrate that they support families first.
Last year, the foundation awarded a total of $378,766 in grants nationwide $177,194 of which stayed in Massachusetts. All proceeds from the event will benefit the next round of grants. The deadline for applications for 2010 will be in September.
In addition to the basketball game, the Flutie Band will be performing in concert from 9:30 to 11 p.m.
"If this is successful, I hope to make this an annual event," Blume said.
"I think everyone will come away from the event with a meaningful experience," Silva commented.
Only 450 tickets are being sold for the evening and they are still available. Tickets are $50 each and include admission to the Basketball Hall of Fame, the celebrity basketball game and the concert. For tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the Flutie Foundation can be found at www.flutiefoundation.org.
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