Food, fun, friends and celebration took place at the Schenley Park Skating Rink Aug. 9. The Ozanam Basketball Program hosted an alumni cookout in which there were artifacts of the past including old flyers, keepsakes, apparel, and photos.“We want to reconnect with our alumni,” said Curtis Cureton, executive director for Ozanam basketball. “We would also like to introduce them to our youth of today which will in turn serve as a big part of our future. There are thousands of our alumni throughout the nation and this is the way in which we would like to bring the vast majority back in and to get them involved with the program.”
On hand were representatives of each of the three decades, in which the program was prominent in the city. They each gathered as a group and then in order of each decade in which they participated. In the process, different sounds were playing from each of those time periods to bring back memories of the times that they suited-up and took to the hardwood or concrete for this program.
Some of the former alumni in attendance were Dwight “the Ice Man” Clay, Jennifer Bruce-Scott, Kirk Bruce, Chaz McCrommon, a current player in France (Robert Morris grad), William Herndon, Mrs. Mary Kohlman and Dr. Rose Smiley.
“It was pretty overwhelming to see the different decades of the program re-united and re-connected,” said Karen Hall, co-director of the Ozanam program. “The chemistry was tremendous between everybody who has participated. The fact that we had such a strong representation shows that most everyone who has participated had a good experience with the program.”
|THREE DECADES—Ozanam alumni gather to reconnect and support the program.
The atmosphere was accented with the smells of Big Mama’s House Barbeque. There was a wide selection of soul food for alumni and guests to enjoy—greens, macaroni and cheese, spicy jerk chicken, candied yams, potato salad, short ribs, cole slaw and fresh corn-on-the cob. Draped in the background were welcome banners that featured old names of teams in the past with famous references to the sights, sounds and figures that will live forever in the memories of all who were associated with the program. Needless to ask, what is an OZ event without the timeless design of the timeless Ozanam basketball T-shirts? They were on display and available for purchase near the event’s registration table. There was an information table on hand for all who were interested in learning about the other initiatives, including the academic enrichment services for current participants.
“We have an objective here to not only get the students primed and conditioned for the court but to also prepare them and get them qualified for the Pittsburgh Promise,” said Gary Schweger, a board member for the program. “We are constantly looking toward the future so that we can improve and get to a place in which we are satisfied with each outcome.”
There is the insight of former participants of how the Ozanam program can move forward to assist these students in achieving academically.
“I think what Ozanam is trying to do is instill values in these children early; that it is important to aim high in the goals of these kids and what they do academically,” said Kirk Bruce, an associate athletic director of sports administration at the University of Pittsburgh. These tutoring programs give them a good start as far as keeping good study habits and learning key things so that it is not as hard for them when it comes time to go to the next level.”
One person who was honored was David Edmunds. He has volunteered his time and service to coordinate and generate marketing for the program and has designed the Ozanam website. He was presented with a certificate of appreciation by the program directors and board members their gratitude for his hard work and service.
“It is truly an honor to be a part of this program,” said Edmunds. “I see the things that Ozanam does for my son, who is a participant, and that makes me happy to do whatever I can to help. I think there should be more people to step out and help whenever there are things like this function, just as well as the program in general.”
(To find out more information about the program see www.ozanamprogram.org.)