LAWRENCE — One of the area’s most recognizable charity events will have a new look when it returns at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, an annual fundraiser for local families affected by pediatric cancer, has pivoted to a long-distance format this year due to travel and other restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said event organizer and Topeka native Brian Hanni.
Typically a multi-day, multi-event experience anchored by an exhibition contest that features former Kansas men’s basketball greats and other Jayhawk personalities, this year’s virtual incarnation will instead take the form of a “Shooting for the Stars” 3-point contest with some of the program’s all-time top sharpshooters participating remotely.
“I think that this pandemic has caused every charitable organization to rethink how they do things, and in many cases folks have had to flat out take a year off from what they do,” said Hanni, the play-by-play voice of the Jayhawks. “We never wanted to do that if we could at all help it because the war against pediatric cancer rages on regardless of COVID. These kids are still having to go through chemotherapy and medical bills mounting and all that. We wanted to do something.
“It took a lot of folks putting their heads together and thinking outside the box to come up with something so that it wasn’t a lost year of fundraising.”
This year’s Roundball Classic will benefit three local families. Without money reliably generated in past years from ticket sales to the scrimmage, spots sold in the celebrity golf tournament and items put up for bid at the live auction, the event will instead lean on donation pledges from fans viewing the broadcast. Other funds will be secured through corporate sponsors, donor packages and remote auction items such as Zoom calls with former KU greats.
“We know the totals may not be as high because times are obviously tight for everybody,” Hanni said, “but we hope that in coming up with something special and unique we can still make a profound impact in the lives of these kids.”
Cox subscribers can watch the event live on the cable provider’s Yurview channel or on WIBW-TV. Announced participants for the 3-point shootout include Sherron Collins, Brandon Rush, Svi Mykhailiuk, Mario Chalmers, Billy Thomas, Jeff Boschee, Terry Brown, Devonte’ Graham, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrel Reed.
“It’s really got the competitive juices flowing with guys that might be separated by 25 years in their playing careers,” Hanni said, “but it’s fun to see them all rally behind the same great cause it’s always been, which is raising dollars for local families fighting pediatric cancer.”