Before we decided to organize Ballin’ for Adam about six months ago I was numb and angry and empty with grief. After my son’s accidental death due to overdose on July 6, 2017, I spent the whole year sleeping on the sofa as if I was waiting for him to turn the key in the door and walk in. On the outside, it was easier to fake normalcy. Sunglasses became my constant companion in public places. I was trying to avoid eye contact with acquaintances who in turn were giving me a scared look. For the first couple of months, I was glued to his phone reading his texts to friends over and over again. I was trying to understand what exactly was happening to my boy, and where exactly I failed him. Why was I so ignorant and not able to see that he was using drugs? Then after about eight months of all of this, my daughter suggested doing a charitable event in Adam’s memory. “At least, we’ll help someone else. Adam loved basketball and spent many hours in Marlboro High School gym playing basketball with his classmates. So, let’s do a basketball tournament in his memory,” she said. I nodded silently to my phone as I tried not to feel anything, numbing my pain and I exhaled a short okay. So it was decided and we named the event Ballin’ for Adam. We designated The Herren Project (THP) to receive a hundred percent of all the donations to support their initiatives to fight substance abuse disorder.
This is the flyer I created with all the details. Now I had to pass it around.
My first couple of times of approaching people about the event were awkward. I remember ambushing Tempur-Pedic store (of all places) as I rambled for good thirty minutes about Ballin for Adam. Did I want to request a mattress as a raffle prize? What was I thinking?
After a while, I was able to do better by withdrawing my persona altogether (almost). It’s not about you, Marina…it’s not about you…
Rachel and Bobby (my daughter and my son-in-law) are more experienced in fundraising as they organized many charitable events before. But it was still emotionally very hard for them as well. Alex (my husband) was not showing how stressed he was, but I could still see. Each of us in the family struggled on many different levels. Adam, our boy is no longer with us- the fact that is still impossible to accept. But all four of us, Rachel, Bobby, my husband and I were trying to overcome sadness and overwhelm. We were supporting each other every day. We also received a lot of support from most people we were talking to. We were making connections with strong, caring people who wanted to participate and made friends all along.
Finally, July 15th was here. It was a rainy Sunday which was God’s gift since the temperature went down and it was ten times easier to play basketball. Marlboro High School gym, where the event took place is not airconditioned, so because of the cooler temperature, the commercial fans were enough or air. So that part was really good.
We designed Ballin for Adam as a basketball tournament with three on three players competing for fifteen minutes each match. The tournament had a break time and a raffle time.
We were in awe when over one hundred and fifty people showed up to participate in Ballin’ for Adam. Rachel and her friends took over the registration and filling in the forms.
It was truly amazing to see people of all different ages and backgrounds who deeply cared about our community. You could see young parents who came with their babies, toddlers playing with basketballs, people in their seventies and eighties, many people in their twenties and thirties.
We were so honored to see all our friends and family coming from different corners of the country near and far! I had a friend who came from Ohio, a couple from Massachusetts, many people from Long Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. And, of course, our great local community.
I have never experienced such a high level of participation from everyone! People were coming early on Sunday morning to support, help with everything- from organizing raffles, food, and snacks to judging the teams and keeping scores. It was magical!
Iggy Mol, Rachel’s friend is a great DJ. He was in charge of music and technology and took some breaks to play basketball.
You could see that the players had a lot of fun! Some of the players were Adam’s fraternity brothers, others were college friends, high school friends. There were many people who we didn’t know before, they just came to support the cause.
Our corporate sponsors, as well as small businesses, offered monetary donations, raffle prizes, and food for the event.
I struggled with my speech but I felt that I have to talk. I wrote and rewrote it many times. I didn’t want it to be too sad because Adam would have been not happy about that. I wanted it to be powerful but positive, inspiring but with a strong message. I rewrote it several times, but finally was able to pull it off, I think.
Ballin’ for Adam was a great success!
We doubled our goal in terms of fundraising!!!
Everyone was helping, reaching out and inspired. It felt as if the universe was also helping all along, starting with the weather and seamless engagement of all moving parts- from snacks and pizza to tournament organization; from an overall spirit to music and prizes. People were leaving in an uplifted mood, hopeful and united in their fight against substance abuse disorder and accidental overdose death.
“See you next year!” they waived to me with warm smiles.
Yes, see you next year!