July 25, 2013 11:38:29 PM
Even though he does not play or coach, Danny Browning looks forward to the fourth Hoops for Troops benefit basketball tournament.
The annual event starts at 8 Saturday morning at the Columbus High School Gym. Admission is $3. The event will include raffles and a concession stand, featuring hamburgers, hot dogs and rib plates.
Benefits from the double-elimination day-long event go to benefit the Family Readiness Group in support of the Mississippi National Guard, Columbus 114th A-Battery Strike unit.
"By law, soldiers can't solicit funds," said Browning, who is the Readiness NCO for the Alpha Battery. "So funds that come into the Family Readiness Group are extremely important. They allow us to do a number of things for the families of the soldiers. It is important to not forget them in their time of need."
Columbus Wal-Mart general manager Ernest Robinson organizes the annual event. In its first installment, $3,000 was raised for the Family Readiness Group. The fourth installment of the event is aiming for $10,000.
"It has grown and gotten bigger each year and we are really proud of that," Robinson said. "It is a fun time where the community can come out and help support a good cause. The response has been better each year and we are really trying to grow this into a premier event."
The Family Readiness Group has its own board. Officers oversee the budget and help allocate funds for their best use. Throughout the year, the Family Readiness Group assists families of soldiers who are in financial straits. In addition, the group sponsors Christmas parties, family outings and also helps in the time of a lost loved one.
"Even though the money is not controlled by the troops, it really is for them," Browning said. "Without (tournament corporate sponsor) Wal-Mart's involvement, there are a lot of things that we would like to do throughout the year, that we would not be able to do for the families."
Wal-Mart will have a couple of teams in the tournament. In addition, store employees will help oversee the event.
"It is another sign of Wal-Mart's commitment to the community," Robinson said. "Wal-Mart tries to take as many opportunities as possible to reach out and help. We have been blessed with a really great event which is gaining steam and continuing to grow."
Wal-Mart will also be providing some of the concession items, as well as some of the raffle items.
Last season, the tournament featured 10 teams. Robinson is hoping for a like number this year.
Browning is thankful that Robinson and his fellow co-workers pitch in to create a top-notch sporting event. He feels like the blueprint is there to help the event continue to grow.
"I think (this tournament) could spawn other fund-raising events," Browning said. "This is a great opportunity for the idea to spread around the state to help even more families."