Community gathers for Hoopz at Harmon Field

Published 9:55 am Monday, April 25, 2022

Organizations team up to benefit local youth


By Storme Smith

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While basketball season has come to a close in most parts of the country, in the State of North Carolina, it never truly ends. It just moves outside. And thanks to the Hoopz event held Friday night, April 22, at Harmon Field, the middle-school and high-school-aged kids of the community were able to lace them up one more time for a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The event was hosted by Gather Community, an organization that seeks to fill in the gaps in our local youth programming by creating safe spaces and programs for young people to socialize and be active. The tournament consisted of nine teams and was put together by a host of volunteers and partners, with special thanks given to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, Tryon Presbyterian Church, and Unity in the Community of the Foothills, who supplied the snacks, drinks, and sideline cheers.


Spearheaded by Steve Martinez, the Executive Director of Gather Community, the tournament was a huge success, with prizes handed out to the winners and exhausted smiles as rewards for the rest of the participants. The Hoopz event will be followed up by a Dodgeball tournament scheduled for 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 30th, at Stearns gym in Columbus for kids in grades 5-12. Like the basketball tournament, it is free to register with cash prizes for the winners. 


Steve, who moved here a little over two years ago with his family from California, took the time to explain the purpose of Gather Community. “The whole idea is to gather the community around the needs of our young people. We do this through partnering with existing nonprofits and civic, educational, and faith-based organizations. Today’s youth are going through so much, many of whom are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, and poverty. Not to mention all the challenges COVID brings to the table. We just want to create a ‘Safe Space’ where kids can just show up and not worry about fees, snacks, or drinks. We want to take care of all that stuff. All they have to do is just show up and play, be competitive, and have fun.”


He continued by pointing out the positive impact of programs and events like the basketball tournament. “Studies show that being active, social, and participating in sports is proven to lower rates of anxiety and depression, lower amounts of stress, reduce the risk of suicide, improve psychological and emotional well-being, and lessen substance abuse and risky behaviors, among other benefits.”


So if you are looking for something fun for your young person to do on a Saturday afternoon, bring them to Stearns gym for the Dodgeball tournament. If folks have questions about the event or wish to get involved, they can reach out to or email Steve at