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Giving A Helping Hand

By Staff | Feb 24, 2016

In this week’s column, I want to acknowledge a few people for their hard work in helping our young people and make sporting events a lot more fun.

Jim and Claire Blatt are two fine adults who have done so much to make the New Martinsville Rotary Basketball Challenge a destination event in the valley. The tourney has blossomed as one of the best high school basketball outings in the tri-state.

The high school smorgasbord of area basketball started in January of 2011 when the MHS HammerDome featured eight of West Virginia’s Region I boys’ basketball Class-AA teams. With Magnolia, Weir, Ravenswood, Roane County, Ritchie County, Oak Glen, Point Pleasant and Tyler Consolidated, the Blatts, along with MHS Athletic Director Brian Castilow and head basketball coach Dave Tallman, did all they could to make sure that all the teams could travel to New Martinsville to play an away game.

The chore of getting all of them to come to the Parlor City was difficult, as all the teams had already started to fill the date the committee had picked for the event.

After getting the games scheduled, Jim and Claire got the area Rotary Club involved. And, to this day, the Challenge has been called the New Martinsville Rotary Basketball Challenge.

The whole concept of a regional event evolved when the WVSSAC went to the larger regions, which combined the old Region I and Region I into a single jurisdiction. At the same time, the SSAC had the coaches seed the teams in the region for home-court advantage for the playoffs.

This was important because these changes created some problems. One was how to seed teams that didn’t play each other. It was going to be quite a trip for teams like Weir and Oak Glen from the north to play teams like Roane, Ritchie, Ravenswood and Point Pleasant in the south. The answer was simple: go half-way and play in New Martinsville.

“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Project Chairman Jim Blatt. “I feel strongly that all the other regions will follow suit by putting on showcases like ours down the road. I am excited, Coach Tallman is excited and the New Martinsville Rotary is excited to be a major sponsor for the basketball challenge.”

Not only will the local fans be able to watch four top-notch high school basketball games in one spot, but the coaches will be able to scout all the other teams without having to travel. In addition, local fans will be able to watch four competitive high school basketball games in one spot. The cost of admission was set at $7 for all the games, whereas admission to one game is $5 for adults and $3 for students. You can’t find a better place to watch that many quality basketball games for the cost, NO place.

From the first basketball challenge to this year, the theme has been changed somewhat. As some Class AA teams were moved to Class A, challenge sponsors added a couple of girls’ games to four boys’ games with only Class A teams invited.

With all the things one has to do to just put on one game, let alone six contests, and to get it all done without too many headaches, the Blatts couldn’t do it all on their own.

Besides all the things that Castilow had done, there was more to do to be prepared and arranged. Such as, getting sponsors and people to support the event financially.

Besides all the NM Rotarians contributing monetary support, the club members also helped with the cleanup and providing fresh water for the players to drink. They persuaded local pizzerias to donate pizza for the players and cheerleaders, as well as secured other items for the kids to eat like fresh fruit, chips, pop and many many other items.

In addition, the challenge provided a hospitality room for the coaches, workers, referees and representatives of the media. Besides all the food, there were challenge shirts for the players, as well as many other gifts and tokens from various businesses. The Blatts went even farther than that. They got gifts for the coaches and the referees.

Having laid a solid foundation for the event, Jim and Claire have said it is a good time to relinquish their labor of love to others. They have been working closely with Rich and Cami Williamson, who will help pilot the event this year.

My hat’s off to the Blatts, the Williamsons and to so many other who have given selflessly to build and maintain excellence in concept and execution to this event. Knowing the Williamsons the way I do, I know the Rotary Challenge is in good hands, and can’t wait to see where they take it.

There are many other outstanding individuals that help with a lot of things that teams need that the school and coaches do not have the time to do. Hats off to all of you. You know who you are. Never have any of these fans of the sports asked for special attention, or acknowledgment of their accomplishments and deeds they have done.

I just wanted to say thank you from myself and my old partner in crime Bill Abraham for your work in making the New Martinsville Rotary Basketball Challenge the very best of its kind.