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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hoops for Heartache at St. James Park


An annual basketball tournament has immortalized the lives of four family members who were killed in a car crash, and a surviving family member has rededicated the event to other families who have suffered through similar tragedies.

The 4th Annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic Tournament was held on Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16, at St. James Park on Jerome Avenue and was first organized by members of the basketball-loving Gardiner family of Fordham.

Sadly, Asia, 8; Derrick, 40; Jamel, 14, and Keywann, 23, along with family friend Brandon Daye, 18, were killed in a horrific crash on the Bronx River Parkway as they traveled to a game on July 9, 2006. That game, ironically, was dedicated to other family members who had recently passed away.

Surviving family member Dexter Gardiner, a longtime Fordham resident who now resides on Burke Avenue, has continued to run the tournament, which this year featured 96 players from eight teams from as far away as Bermuda and Mississippi. Free food and drink were available. There was also a DJ and live entertainment.

"We're bringing the families out," Dexter Gardiner explained, "families that have been through tragedies from all over the city." The family of Sean Bell, the unarmed man shot dead by police in Queens has attended in the past.

Some good came from his family tragedy, Gardiner says. "I know I went on TV and spoke about getting the highway fixed, it was a very bad highway, and they fixed it, so I'm happy." Gardiner claimed it was a defect in the roadway at E.177 Street, that sent the vehicle over the highway divider.

"I'm doing this because a lot of families are going through this," Gardiner continued, "There's so many tragedies out here now, because people don't die one by one now, they're dying in bunches."

"I just want to give back to the people," Gardiner adds, "and to let them know that people from the community do care for them."

The winner of this year's tournament was, "Jadakiss," of Yonkers, a team that included Bronxite Kareem Reid, a former player with the University of Arkansas. Team Jadakiss defeated members of, "Never Be Forgotten," a team based on City Island.

Jeff S. Korek, of the law firm Gersowitz, Libo and Korek P.C., who along with Lawyertime.com, sponsored the event by providing team uniforms and the food, said, "I met Dexter in a basketball league up in Westchester and over time he told me about the tournament and the incredible work his foundation does."

This year the law firm even participated with their own team and despite being eliminated in the first round, Korek added, "We had a great time this weekend and are so happy to be a part of the tournament and to help the Gardiner Foundation with its phenomenal work in the community."

The law firm also awarded $1,500 scholarships to three college-bound participants.

The Gardiner Foundation continues to reach out and offer assistance to families going through similar tragedies. For more information on the foundation, click here.


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