The fifth annual Morton Gameball Run took place Thursday afternoon at the Morton High School track.
Members of the Morton boys basketball teams, Morton District 709 administration, faculty members and for the first time ever — students — took part in the run.
Money raised during the event will be donated to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.
Last year, the run generated $62,000, bringing the four-year total to over $166,000 donated.
Morton boys basketball coach Jarrett Brown started the initiative five years ago, hoping the program would achieve three main goals:
To involve all schools and students within the Morton community; allow an opportunity for the boys basketball team to serve in a philanthropic role; and to present a way to give back to an organization that has served multiple families and students in Morton schools.
Organizers of the event said 250 district students and 100 faculty members participated in the Gameball Run Thursday, which is the highest turnout thus far in the initiative’s short history.
“This is our biggest and best year yet,” Gameball Run co-chairman Stacy Literski said. “We decided to open it up to the students this year and we have seen great results.“
Students who donated $20 or more got to participate in the run, which allowed more participants in the run than ever before.
Brown said that his players have come to appreciate and look forward to this week, knowing what impact it has on the community.
“The run allows us to have an annual service project for our players,” Brown said. “Now, you see kids in our elementary district getting involved and raising money for kids at the children’s hospital, too. Faculty members in all of the schools get involved as well and you see the faculty and students working together outside of the classroom. I think it is really special to form those relationships outside of the classroom.”
Brown believes that this charity event will serve his players a lifelong lesson and will stick out in their memories of high school
“A lot of our players on our team have made a sectional final,” Brown said. “But, if you ask them what their best experience has been at Morton, it will be the Gameball Run.”
Morton senior guard Ryan Altenberger concurs.
“I definitely agree with (coach Brown),” Altenberger said. “It is really amazing to see how many people come out to support this cause. Going through the hospital and talking to the kids, it definitely sticks with you.”
As a part of the event, each school in Morton District 709 is assigned with a “miracle family.”
A miracle family is a family that has received or has continued use of services at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.
There are six miracle families this year, with each family being sponsored by a school and members of the Morton varsity basketball team.
The Fuiten family is paired with Grundy Elementary School; the Mayeur family is paired with Jefferson Elementary School; the Robbins family is paired with Lettie Brown Elementary School; the Ripka family is paired with Lincoln Elementary School; the Berg family is paired with Morton Junior High School; and the Phan family is paired with Morton High School.
The Gameball Run ceremony and check presentation will take place prior to the Morton-East Peoria varsity game at 6:30 p.m. Friday night at the Potterdome.
Morton will celebrate the participants of the Gameball Run and honor the families who are being sponsored during this year’s event.
Brown said the moment that the check is displayed and shown to the miracle families is “truly special.”
“When you see all the miracle families on the floor, it is emotional,” Brown said. “When you hear how much money is raised for sick children, it is truly special. If you can be in the building and keep from shedding a tear, you are a tougher person than I am.”
While a final total of how much money the 2017 Gameball Run has not been released, Literski said that this year would smash last year’s total.
“It will truly be a record-breaking year,” Literski said. “I am truly excited for the check presentation (Friday).”
Vying for a Mid-Illini Conference championship with three games remaining in the season, Brown said that this event is an eye opener to focus on the more important things in life.
“This is a reminder that we all need to keep our priorities straight and keep everything in perspective,” Brown said. “This is great timing in the year to remind us of what is really important.”