Autistic children played basketball with Tamir Goodman, retired professional basketball player, in the Alley Oop fundraiser Sunday at Campus Recreational Center East, or CRCE. Goodman, nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” after professional NBA player Michael Jordan, was brought to the University by the Chabad Center for Jewish Life.
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director for the Chabad Center, said he was very excited to have Goodman on campus. He said although Goodman has been retired from basketball for a few weeks, he hasn’t really had a break. Goodman has been inspiring students across the Midwest as the director of the Haifa Hoops for Kids charity program.
“Haifa Hoops for Kids has basketball clinics for kids with special needs around the world,” Goodman said. “I will continue to work with these kids through basketball, especially with kids with autism. They enjoy basketball, and they enjoy the physical activity.”
Tiechtel said unlike many other fundraisers for autism awareness, Alley Oop allows the children themselves to participate with Goodman. The Friendship Circle, an organization dedicated to helping kids with special needs, worked with event organizers to find kids wanting to play.
“For me, as a director of students on campus, it is an inspiration for me to see how we can make a difference when we can,” Tiechtel said. “In other philanthropy events, you can send in money, but here, you can affect (the kids) directly as well. Some of us help financially, and others can help the children themselves.”
Tiechtel added the event reflects many of Judaism principles.
“One of the main foundations of Judaism is giving back,” Tiechtel said. “Judaism is built on the responsibility of making the world a better place, of giving kindness.”
Ryan Bloom, philanthropy chair of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and sophomore in Business, said they started planning for the event during the summer by contacting Goodman, gathering volunteers and finding children with autism to participate.
“Each year, we try to make the event a little bit bigger,” Bloom said before the event. “To bring Tamir Goodman this year will be great for turnout and donations.”
Bloom said Goodman was an inspiration for the child participants.
“He’s a big help with kids that have special needs and that are underprivileged,” Bloom said.
In past years, Bloom said Alley Oop was enjoyable because it was interactive.
“Last year, there was one kid, whose name I’m not really sure of, who made probably five or ten baskets,” Bloom said. “He was probably four feet tall, and he never missed a shot. It was incredible to watch.”
Alley Oop was started two years ago by Jacob Hurwith, senior in Media and current Illini Media employee. He said the idea came from a fundraiser held annually by a Jewish group in the Chicago suburbs. Hurwith said the event was difficult to put together, but it has grown since its inception. He said he hopes the fundraiser will continue in future years.
“I think this is one of the only fundraising events that actually has the kids get involved and where the kids are actually helping,” Hurwith said. “I think that is one of the most important things.”