By Barry Burleson
There was an important basketball tournament
going on last week at Brookhaven Academy.
High school teams, including Marshall
Academy, were competing for the ultimate crown, a state championship.
But the games were not nearly as important as what was going on at a
small table over in one corner of John R. Gray Gymnasium.
The table had stuffed elephants on top
with a request for a $10 donation to St. Jude Children’s Research
Hospital. One of the signs above the table urged support for Bradley
Reece, a sophomore at Marshall Academy who is a patient at St. Jude.
Lucy Watts, a Brookhaven Academy alum,
was manning the table Friday night during the MA-Brookhaven boys’
contest. About 150 elephants had already been sold, she said.
“We actually found out about
Bradley after the Marshall Academy people got here (to the tournament),”
she said. “It’s a neat thing for us to help.”
Therese Apel, former MA teacher and now
a staff writer for The Daily Leader in Brookhaven, wrote a
story prior to the tournament about this special cause.
It’s reprinted here.
Brookhaven Academy plays host to the
State AA Basketball Tournament starting today, but school officials
are not looking at it as just a tournament.
“We’re looking at
this as a chance to really help with a cause,” said Lindy Gray,
who is organizing the tournament. “This is a basketball tournament,
but our mission is to share the idea of unity and to glorify God for
The theme for the tournament is “Welcome
to the Big Show,” and the decorations feature circus images.
Gray was shopping in Target one day when she saw a chance to tie together
basketball and charity.
“I saw these little Ty
beanie baby elephants with tags on them that said $1.50 would go to
St. Jude’s for every elephant sold,” she said. “I
realized it would go great with our circus theme.”
So Gray got on the phone with Target
and St. Jude’s and rounded up as many of the leftover beanie
babies as she could find. They will be sold at the tournament, with
all proceeds to go directly to St. Jude’s.
“They’ll be on sale
at the south end of the gym,” said Gray. “Anyone can buy
them, but there are limited quantities.”
Gray said she knew she was on the right
track when the decorating crew was putting up the circus effects in
the gym, and the pizza they ordered from Domino’s Pizza came
in boxes that had the St. Jude’s logo on the side.
“St. Jude’s is just
such an important cause,” said Gray. “I’m just glad
we were able to put this all together to benefit them. We want to
help any way we can.”
The stuffed elephants aren’t
the only St. Jude’s link, either. There is a possibility of
St. Jude’s patients sharing their stories at halftime and between
“We’re also hoping
to have a visit from Big Al, the mascot from the University of Alabama,”
said Gray, who went on to say Big Al could visit on Friday or Saturday,
depending on if flight arrangements could be made.
Gray and other officials are excited
about the games, which take place tonight, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday,
but still they see the charity work as the bigger picture.
“We’re not a Christian
school as such,” said Gray, “But we do have our mission
statement based on spiritual values. We really want to use this as
a chance for the state to see what Brookhaven Academy stands for.”
The Leake girls and the Brookhaven boys
won state championships Saturday. I know those trophies were special.
But there so many things more important
than basketball - and none more important than the treatment and research
going on at St. Jude Children’s Hospital just up the road in Memphis,
Thanks to Brookhaven Academy for reminding
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