It’s a magic time of year.
It’s the time when bankers and accountants, school administrators and factory executives step out from behind their desks and get onto the hardwood; the time when doctors put down their stethoscopes and lace up their high-tops.
That’s right, folks, we’re quickly approaching the fourth annual charity basketball game between local Rotary clubs and Illinois Valley Community Hospital.
The game, which is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15 in Peru Parkside Middle School, will match local Rotarians, myself included, against doctors, administrators and other IVCH employees.
While we play just one game, months of twice-a-week practices go into the preparation. In honesty, for me, it is months of getting knocked around the paint by guys who play better ball in their 40s and 50s than I did in my teens, but it’s a great way to get back to exercising before spring.
The game, though, is more than just fun for us white-collar warriors and entertainment for our families and friends. Worthwhile local non-profits benefit from donations at the game. IVCH’s half of the proceeds benefits the hospital’s foundation, while the Rotarians give our portion of the take to the Illinois Valley Food Pantry and Illinois Valley Public Action to Deliver Shelter.
I’ve now spent nearly five years to the day as a NewsTribune reporter and in that time I’ve come to see how important these organizations are to our community.
Don’t get me wrong, there are countless groups doing great work in the Illinois Valley for a variety of causes, but I can only write about so many at a time.
The important thing is poverty is very real in our community in a way I didn’t realize when I was growing up here.
About a year ago I was working on a story that just never quite came together, but it opened my eyes to a problem: some local schools have seen increasing numbers of homeless students in recent years.
Now these students don’t necessarily fit the traditional image of homelessness, sleeping on downtown streets and panhandling for change. It’s much more common, I learned, that their families just don’t have a home of their own. They may spend a few weeks living with a relative before moving in with friends and on and on as the parents try to keep the family together and find stable living and work opportunities.
On other assignments, I’ve spoken with people waiting in line for holiday distributions at the food pantry.
Unfortunately, those lines don’t seem to have gotten any shorter.
I’m not an expert on these matters and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know how to solve the underlying problems. I’d feel foolish even trying to offer some sort of social or political remedy, but these are problems that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
As a reporter, I often feel the most I can do is shine a little light on an issue and hope it starts a conversation by people smarter or better equipped than me to do some good.
And every now and again, I get to give up a little bit of my free time to play some basketball, knowing that every time I miss an easy lay-up in front of hundreds of people the effort is helping other people in need.
Matthew Baker can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or email@example.com.