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Slam-dunking major diseases

Hoops for Hope games support SIBSPlace in Hewlett

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For the past 15 seasons, the Hewlett High School varsity boys’ basketball team has played a game dedicated to raising money for SIBSPlace (Survivorship in Brothers and Sisters), a Hewlett-based group that offers support for children ages 5 to 17 who have a sibling or parent suffering from cancer or another devastating illness.

SIBSPlace’s trained volunteers offer children the chance to engage in therapeutic art and group discussion to improve self-awareness, expression and coping skills. It is an affiliate of Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, and was founded in 2000. Hoops for Hope began in 2004 with a game between Hewlett and Ocean-side high schools. Since then the charity games have raised more than $100,000 for the organization, in the form of donations and T-shirt and concessions sales. Game tickets are typically free.

“How could you not be inspired by what these schools do?” SIBS-Place Executive Director Suzanne Kornblatt said. “It shows how impactful an act of kindness can be.”

Hewlett High’s head basketball coach, Bill Dubin, is a board member of SIBSPlace. He has been involved in Hoops for Hope since its inception. “When I first became involved with SIBS-Place, I had people inquiring with me about the services they provide,” Dubin said. “So I figured, why not raise awareness for SIBSPlace through basketball? It’s great that we’re one of the few programs in Nassau County that participates in a charity basketball game.”

Kornblatt, the organization’s director since 2004, noted that one of her first tasks was to write Dubin a thank-you letter after the first Hoops for Hope game. “Ever since I’ve been with SIBSPlace, Bill has been a tremendous supporter and representative for us,” Kornblatt said. “He’s a generous man who understands the power of making others aware of our services.”

SIBSPlace’s assistant director, Joanna Formont, recognized the importance of the basketball games. “This Hoops for Hope initiative empowers the community,” she said. “By making a donation, you’re raising awareness by letting people know that a service like SIBSPlace is available.”

In recent years, Hoops for Hope has extended beyond Hewlett not only to Lawrence, but also to the Oceanside and West Hempstead school districts. “This is West Hempstead’s second year and Oceanside’s third year,” Dubin said. (Oceanside was not yet part of the cause when it took part in the inaugural game in 2004.) “They’ve been tremendous to work with.” He added that the Bethpage School District also joined the effort this year.

“It’s incredibly inspiring that other communities have become involved with Hoops for Hope,” Kornblatt said. “It’s great that were making people from all over Nassau County aware of SIBSPlace just by playing basketball games.”

Dubin said there is no set goal for donations. “The final number of donations is not the most important thing to me,” he said. “I just want people to enjoy the moment, while also becoming aware that an organization like SIBSPlace is available to them.”

The SIBSPlace offices are at 1420 Broadway in Hewlett. It can be reached at (516) 374-3000.