Courtney Karagjozi takes a shot during a 42-36 home loss to Hopewell on Jan. 16. (Photo by Suzette Lucas.)

Chris Hoffman is bringing his fundraising talents to Robbinsville High School, and his players are happy and proud to be a part of it all.

After four straight years of running softball charity events at Manalapan High School—where he teaches and coaches the varsity softball team—Hoffman now wants to do something at the school where he coaches varsity girls’ basketball.

On Saturday, Feb. 7, beginning at 9:30 a.m., RHS will host seven girls’ basketball games, each pitting a Colonial Valley Conference team against a Shore Conference team.

All the money raised during the day and leading up to it will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Ravens will host several youngsters that day who suffer from cancer.

The players were on board from the start, but got even more charged up to help in mid-January when Arianna Dunbar, one of Hoffman’s former players who now works for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, met with the team for 45 minutes.

“She showed some video clips of kids with leukemia and different blood cancers, and explained what doctors are trying to do to find a cure, and gave us some ideas,” Hoffman said. “The girls knew what we were trying to come up with, but meeting with her and watching kids on video, I think it hit them pretty good. There were a lot of teary eyes, girls saying, ‘What else can we do to help?’”

Seniors Courtney Allen and Kaitlyn Herbert—who may be close to scoring her 1,000th point during that day—admitted to being affected by the video.

“I was impacted a lot by the children’s stories,” said Allen, whose mom’s cousin fought and beat breast cancer at a young age. “I felt so determined to help and fundraise because the kids in the video that had cancer were just like me and my friends. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are to have our health.”

Herbert agreed.

“After watching the video it opened my eyes to the struggles that people have to face every day,” she said. “I feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to help raise money for such a good cause. As a team, we were all moved by the video and want to help coach Hoffman as much as possible in his efforts for the cause.”

Hoffman is becoming renowned in Central Jersey for helping those less fortunate. For the first two years of his Manalapan softball fundraisers, the proceeds went to a fellow Shore Conference softball coach at Jackson Liberty who was struck with a rare form of cancer in her leg.

The past two years, Hoffman combined both schools where he coaches. He continued to hold softball fundraisers at Manalapan, this time benefiting Robbinsville Athletic Director Curtis Wyers’ NephHope Foundation. Wyers and his wife Leslie began NephHope after two of their three children were hit with nephronophthisis, a rare kidney disease. The Robbinsville softball team made the trip to Manalapan to help.

Hoffman figured it was time to start doing something with the team he coaches in the winter. The idea came to him when players he coached on the Colts Neck softball team approached him about doing a softball fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where they now work.

The proceeds for this spring’s softball event are already earmarked for a teacher at Manalapan who has breast cancer, but Hoffman wasn’t letting that deter him.

“I told them ‘Maybe we can do this sooner, let’s see if we can have a basketball fundraiser,’” he said. “The basketball team, from when we got here, has been built to another level and now we want to take it to the next level. But in the big picture, basketball is not important. It’s how you lead your life and how you help people less fortunate. Now that we’re building a program, it’s time to do what we’ve done at other schools and start to do it over here.”

Aside from the games themselves, food, bracelets and T-shirts will be available, along with other treats.

“We’re getting the boys’ basketball team involved,” Hoffman said. “They’re going to sell food. They’re excited to help. This isn’t the first time this has been done at Robbinsville. They’ve done it in other sports to help out sick kids and families in Robbinsville.”

And while the main goal is to raise money to help those with an illness, the players admit there is an ulterior motive as well. That concerns their assistant coach Tom Brettell, who is also the Ravens’ head baseball coach.

“In the school, we are going to have a goal of how much money we are going to raise,” Allen said. “If we reach the goal, Mr. Brettell will sing the national anthem before our game in the tournament. We figured students would be more likely to donate (to see that), and we are hoping that people would come to the games and donate money there as well.”

In discussing Brettell’s singing prowess, Herbert added, “That should be a unique event in itself.”

The admission fee is $5 for the day for as many games as a spectator wishes to stay for. The schedule is as follows: 9:30 a.m.—Jackson vs. Steinert; 11 a.m.—Jackson Liberty vs. Lawrence; 2:30 a.m.—Manalapan vs. Hamilton West; 2 p.m.—Brick Memorial vs. West Windsor-Plainsboro North; 3:30 p.m.—Middletown South vs. Notre Dame; 5 p.m.—Raritan vs. Robbinsville; 6:30 p.m.—Marlboro vs. Allentown. For more information, e-mail chrishoffman793@hotmail.com.