Gus Macker gets big assist from volunteer groups
Today marks 10 years of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament being held on the streets of downtown Morris, and it's popularity has stayed strong in the last decade.
"It's been very well received. We've had good numbers from the very beginning, and it's nice to see the continued interest in the tournament," said Julie Applegate, executive director of the Morris Downtown Development Partnership, which hosts the event.
This year, 276 teams are playing, just a bit shy of last year's 284 teams, which was tied for the record of total teams set in 2005. In the past nine years, more than $92,000 has been raised and given back to organizations in the community who have volunteers work the annual tournament.
"Ten years is a big accomplishment, but it would never be accomplished without all of the help from committee members, volunteers, the community in general, the city and all the sponsors' support," said Applegate.
The event kicks off today at 8 a.m. with an opening ceremony on Liberty and Main streets. The games begin after the Do or Die Shot, being taken this year by Kim DesLauriers, Immaculate Conception School principal.
Also during the ceremony, a moment of silence will be held for two previous Gus Macker players who have recently passed: Kyale Brown and Abe Black. Brown was going to be a senior at Morris Community High School this year, while Black, 22, was a Morris High graduate.
More than 50 businesses and organizations sponsored the event this year, with sponsorships ranging from $2,500 to $350. Major sponsors are Grundy Bank, ATI Physical Therapy, Cardinal Transport, Rezin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Ortiz Eye and Hearing.
In addition to the sponsors, it takes numerous volunteers to make the weekend event a success from start to finish, Applegate said. This year, 13 groups are bringing volunteers to help with set up, registration, score keeping, passing out water, clean up and other work.
The groups are Morris High School PromFest, football and band; Immaculate Conception School Sports Committee; First United Methodist Church youth group; Operation: MOMS Cookies; Walker Epilepsy Foundation; Boy Scout Troop 469; Grundy Bank Caring Committee; Special Connections of Grundy County; Grundy County Republicans; and Grundy County Democrats.
Most of the groups receive a donation from the Gus Macker proceeds, but the political parties are just volunteering. Operation: MOMS Cookies, Walker Epilepsy Foundation, the political parties, and the Morris High band are new volunteer groups.
"It's very exciting. I'm sitting on the Liberty Days Committee and learned much about Gus Macker. I've gotten great insight and it's very exciting for the community," said Debbie Trippiedi, president of Operation: MOMS Cookies.
"I never realized how big it was, and it's enabled us to spread the word on our side of the world," she said. Trippiedi has been able to get volunteers from Wilmington, Reed-Custer and Herscher high schools. Operation: MOMS Cookie volunteers are going to be the score keepers for the event.
Of the 13 volunteer groups, many have been a part of Gus Macker from day one.
The Grundy Bank Caring Committee started with just some employees volunteering where needed and, after a couple of years, it turned into the caring committee running the hospitality tent.
"We love Gus Macker, anything that brings a positive influence to the downtown," said Sara Grieff, chair of the caring committee.
Last year, the committee received $350 for its work, which goes to its charity projects, including adopting families at Christmas and a food drive for We Care of Grundy County.
The First United Methodist Church's youth group has been the tear-down crew since the beginning. The money it receives goes toward the annual mission trip. In the 10 years, there have been about 125 volunteers from the youth group working Gus Macker. Last year, they received around $1,000, said Ryan Jacobs of the church
"It's been pretty rewarding. It's something we're pretty good at doing, so it's easy for us," said Jacobs. "The kids work really hard. I don't think everyone can say that about their high school kids, so we're pretty blessed to have that. I'm thrilled they keep asking us back."