Basketball has always been Justin Resnick’s hobby, but since 2007 the Jericho resident has transformed that hobby into an annual event that has raised awareness and nearly $1 million for children with autism.
Hundreds came to Resnick’s alma mater Jericho High School on Saturday to spend hours grabbing rebounds and shooting jump shots in a series of roughly 150 games for the “Alley Oop for Autism” basketball tournament.
“It’s been an unbelievable tournament and way that the community has come together to give back,” said Resnick, 26, of Jericho. He started the tournament in 2007 as a junior in high school, where he played basketball for the Jericho Jayhawks.
Proceeds from this year’s tournament went to the Family Center for Autism in Garden City, which provides services and programs to people with autism.
Organizers said the tournament raises between $85,000 and $100,000 annually. About 250 players ranging from third-graders to adults signed up this year, putting the tournament on pace to hit that goal, organizers said.
New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley was also on hand for the tournament, signing autographs and taking pictures with star-struck children and parents.
“Every year, they know it’s coming and they can’t wait for it,” said Joel Levine, 52, of Roslyn, of the community. Levine, one of the event’s organizers, said two of his three children are on the autism spectrum and use the Garden City center.
His forehead glistening with perspiration after officiating several children’s games, Jimm Paull smiled as he watched the kids play in the tournament.
“The bigger guys are a little more competitive. But the little guys, yeah, they’re competitive, but we’re watching them have fun,” said Paull, a retired NCAA Division I women’s referee from Central Islip. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Drew Greenburg, 16, of Roslyn, who took part in the half-court shot contest, spent most of the day getting score cards for the scorer’s table. Greenberg, whose sister was diagnosed with autism and uses the center to take Zumba, cooking and other activities, said he enjoyed helping out.
“Everyone is having fun for a good cause,” Drew said. “We’re raising a lot of money and putting a lot of work into it, so it’s great.”