PIER 36 — Hundreds of basketball enthusiasts made their way to Basketball City Saturday for a day filled with basketball playoffs, but also to raise awareness and funds to reduce gun violence.
The annual “3-on-3 Love and Basketball" Tournament on Pier 36 in lower Manhattan has become a way to honor to Long Island girls who were killed by an angry gun-wielding man in 2007, but also a valuable fundraiser for the Carol Kestenbaum Foundation and the Nicole Schiffman Foundation, named after the two young women. The girls were both shot to death by the ex-boyfriend of one of Kestenbaum’s college friends in Arizona.
The tournament was started three years ago by a group of Kestenbaum and Schiffman’s high school friends from when they were all students at Bellmore's John F. Kennedy High School.
“Without sounding too dark about it, this is really way for us to cope with what happened,” said Jennifer Gold, one of the friends who started the tournament.
“We never thought something like this would happen to our friends but this is a way to draw awareness toward gun violence.”
About 200 participants broken into teams of threes and fours participated in the tournament Saturday. It started off as a round-robin style playoff with teams winning the most points moving forward to the quarterfinals and ultimately to the finals with the winning team walking away with courtside tickets to a New York Knicks game.
While Kestenbaum and Schiffman weren’t basketball players, their friends said they chose the sport because they believed it would attract a large group of people, and didn’t involve investing in expensive sports equipment.
At Saturday’s tournament, the duo’s friends fondly recalled the times they shared with Kestenbaum and Schiffman while they were all in high school.
“They were extremely energetic, outgoing, and were definitely always the event planners,” said Aly Spivak, another friend involved in the planning of the tournament. “They always got the troops together. They were loud – just like basketball.”
“They carried the flag and we all marched behind them,” added Jesse Diplacido, also one of the friends involved in starting the tournament.
The funds raised from Saturday’s event will be equally divided between the foundations in Kestenbaum and Schiffman's names. Both foundations support groups that work to eliminate violence and crime amongst the youth in the city — Leave Out Violence, and Safe Horizon are just some of the nonprofit anti-violence groups the organizations work with.
“What are you going to do with your grief? They [Kenstenbaum’s friends] took this on and they raised money for these two foundations and we are so proud of these girls,” said Rita Kestenbaum, Carol’s mother.
“They’ve actually done something so positive in the memory of their best friends so as mothers we are very happy that they have been able to put something on like this.”
Schiffman’s mother, Cheryl said that as non-profit foundations they refrained from participating in political fundraising efforts, but felt that basketball, and contributing to youth-related anti-violence projects was a way for them to get their voices heard.
It is very difficult to pass sensible gun laws and there should be some sensible gun laws, but there are not,” said Cheryl Schiffman. “We’re frustrated by that but we try and put our money towards messages of non-violence. It’s basically to help kids get away from the violence in their lives because it was a violent act that took the lives of our daughters.”
Nicole Schiffman had traveled to Arizona to celebrate Carol Kestenbaum’s 20th birthday when their lives were tragically cut short by Joshua Mendel, the former boyfriend of one of the girls' friends, who blamed Kestenbaum for inciting his ex, Alexandra Wake, to break up with him on Valentine's Day in 2007, the NY Daily News reported.
Last year the tournament raised $10,000, and this year that number has doubled to $20,000, according to Gold.