By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five years ago a charity basketball fundraiser at Manchester High School was organized to help raise funds for the Manchester Youth Football Program.
“It was a great crowd,” said Ron Rubick, the former Detroit Lion who has helped make the event in Manchester possible. “I remember there was a really good crowd, wonderful pictures, and I’ve got pictures on my Facebook still of the kids that were playing. The community was thrilled to have us and we were thrilled to be there. It’s nice when people are receptive and looking for an entertaining game.”
Chad Duffing, who works for the State of Michigan and is the Youth Football Director in Manchester, was able to get in contact with former Detroit Lion Ron Rubick through a mutual friend at work.
Within a few years of being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 1982 draft, Rubick became involved with these community outreach games. He started doing them as a player when he would go back to Grand Valley in the offseason to return to school.
At that time the Lions allowed current players to participate and Rubick loved it.
“You go and the people know who you are,” said Rubick. “You see the kids just adore you, it’s just fun. You play with teachers, with fireman, policeman whatever it is. People can come to this game, this is only eight bucks. I’ve had people 40-year-olds come up to me and talk about how they remember me coming to Bad Axe or to Saline or wherever it was when they were kids and played. No one boos you, no one says you suck. They’re happy you’re in the community and helping raise money.”
As time has gone on the Lions have begun restricting use of players that still currently play, but that hasn’t stopped Rubick from organizing other Lions greats to continue on the tradition.
“It’ll be a great show,” said Rubick “It’s entertaining, it’s not competitive basketball. We’re going to have fun with teachers or whoever we play. We’re going to get a lot of kids in the game, sign autographs, mess with the referees, scorekeepers; it’s just a lot of fun. We’re not the Globetrotters, not skilled like that, but we’re silly and fun. You can see my guys have fun and I always tell people you can’t fake fun.”
“He’s the one we talk back and forth with through the year,” added Duffing. “He steers us in the direction.”
That basketball game included Manchester Schools faculty and former Detroit Lions players. That night they were able to raise around $17,000 for the program as the community packed the high school gymnasium.
“It was a big event, the community really backed us on it and we had about a thousand people inside the gymnasium that night,” said Duffing, who organized that fundraiser and will have a hand in the upcoming one. “That was the only time; maybe a couple other times there, we had bleachers on both sides for a basketball game.”
Saturday, Apr. 14, the Manchester Football Program will be holding another charity basketball fundraiser at Manchester High School. Former Detroit Lions such as Rubick, Lomas Brown, Cory Schlesinger, Herman Moore, and Rob Sims will be in attendance with the possibility of others attending and maybe an appearance by Roary, the mascot of the Detroit Lions.
When Mike Blumenauer was named as the next head coach of Manchester football earlier this year one of the things he and Duffing discussed was what they could do to raise some money for the program.
“The bad thing is every coach has to fundraise,” said Duffing. “It’s where we’re at right now, we all have to fundraise. It takes away from our primary purpose which is to be there for the kids and to coach. Mike and I talked, and we brought up bringing back the Lions (for another charity basketball game). The goal is to raise $8,000-$10,000 so we don’t have to worry about fundraising for a couple of years. We can just worry about putting the production the field, worry about the kids, and get Manchester football back to where it once was which is championship form.”
“We’re just trying to get a foundation started for the future of Manchester football,” added Blumenauer. “That’s what it’s for. Chad pretty much put together the other one and he’s really involved with this one too. It was really fun that time and I thought instead of the normal things we do for fundraising we could do this. I think it’ll be a really fun night. I hate asking people for money but we’ve got to to function and this is a fun way to do that.”
Money raised would go towards new jerseys, new weight room equipment which would benefit all of Manchester’s student-athletes, safer equipment, and new blocking sleds among other items.
Five years ago, in addition to free pictures and autographs, there was a silent auction, concessions, and a 50/50 raffle in which all proceeds went to the Youth Football Program.
Saturday, the Lions players will again be signing autographs and taking pictures. Once again there will be a silent auction, concessions, and 50/50 raffle with all of the proceeds going to the whole Manchester football program from high school down to the junior level.
This isn’t the only time that these former Lions great have been involved in the Manchester community, they’ve been brought in to assemblies at Klager Elementary and prior football camps.
“We’ve had a longstanding history with them and a very positive one,” said Duffing. “For professional athletes to come to Manchester and interact with the kids, it’s just fantastic. It’s something kids will never forget.”