Twenty years ago, Wayne Baloney says he received a vision from God to host a Christian basketball tournament in order to foster stronger faith within the young men of St. Charles Parish. Today, that vision, which was captured by the late Rev. Albert Charles, has helped open the college door for teens at First Baptist Church of Paradis through more than $30,000 in scholarship funds.
The first basketball tournament was held in 1993 and Baloney and Donnie Hills signed up four teams. The tournament proved such a success that now eight teams are involved and take part every year.
"We had to limit it to eight teams so that we could get the tournament done in a day and we have had those same eight teams for 10 years," Hills said. "No one wants to give up their spot. It is something they really look forward to."
Those teams include Baptist churches from across St. Charles Parish and into Jefferson Parish. This year’s tournament will take place on Saturday, Aug. 17 at Hahnville High School. The first game begins at 8 a.m. when Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Marrero takes on Historic Bethlehem/Bell Baptist Church of Hahnville.
Antioch Baptist Church of Des Allemands, Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Ama, True Vine Baptist Church of Hahnville, Mt. Airy Baptist Church of Boutte, First Baptist Church of Paradis and Fifth African Baptist Church of St. Rose will also participate.
In order for the tournament to provide scholarships, each team is charged an entry fee and the players must buy shirts for $8 to enter the tournament. The event also has 20 sponsors. The rest of the scholarship funds come from admission tickets and food and drink sales.
The scholarships are used for teens at First Baptist Church of Paradis, pastored by Rev. Lionel Mason Sr.
"The only qualification for someone to get money for a scholarship is submission papers that they are going to college or a trade school," Hills said. "If we have 10 kids who qualify, we split the money between them. If we have 20 kids, we do the same thing. We don’t put a limit on how many can receive the scholarship money."
But aside from the scholarship funds, Hills says the tournament introduces Christ and fellowship to the players and attendees.
"It eliminates a lot of strife because these guys know each other since they play against each other every year. In the history of the tournament, we have never had fights or confrontations," he said. "Along with the kids, it also unites the families. We have the same families come every year."
Families who attend will get the chance to win door prizes offered by several businesses across the parish. Hot dogs, nachos and cold drinks will also be sold.
The tournament is held at Hahnville High School yearly and the school does not charge for the gym’s use.
"St. Charles Parish Public Schools keeps the doors open for us," Hills said.
Along with the tournament, there will also be a special recognition program at First Baptist Church of Paradis on Aug. 18 beginning at 11 a.m.
|A Christian basketball tournament started 20 years ago has led to more than $30,000 in scholarship funds for teens at First Baptist Church in Paradis. Eight teams take part in the tournament this year, with tip off scheduled for 8 a.m. on Saturday.|