Russell High School (RHS) has revived its ‘Baskets For’ event after three years of being cancelled, and the recreational sports celebration pulled in the largest crowd the event has ever seen. The after-school fundraiser on December 15 pitted the RHS Timberwolves senior boys’ basketball team and the alumni basketball team against their rival teams from St. Thomas Aquinas.
In addition to the exhibition basketball games, the Russell Spirit Squad took to the court at half time to perform a dance they’ve been working on since early fall.
“It is always great to see two cross-town rival schools come together for a common goal each year,” said organizing teacher and basketball coach Kimberly MacKinnon. “RHS is always looking for community connections and ways to help build rapport with community members. It is our way to give back to the community each year.”
The ‘Baskets For’ event was first held in the 2014-2015 school year with support from the RHS Athletic Council. MacKinnon organized the event then as well, donating the money raised then to Jonathan Pitre for his medical expenses.
“I came up with the event when I heard about Jonathan Pitre, a.k.a. the Butterfly Child, a student at an Embrun Catholic school who lived in our community and had epidermolysis bullosa,” said MacKinnon. “I knew I just had to do something to help this young man and his family with the cost of his treatments and his wish to see the Northern Lights. Being the basketball coach at Russell High School I knew I wanted to tie in basketball somehow.”
The fundraiser then became an annual event that donated to local non-profit organization Kawabunga Group in 2015-2016, raised funds to help build the Russell Sports Dome in 2016-2017, helped support a local student battling brain cancer in 2017-2018, and donated to the Embrun Food Bank in 2018-2019.
Tickets for the event were $5 each, and canteen items and raffle tickets were sold throughout the night. All told, the event raised $1,688 to provide support funding for the Russell Splash Pad. This is the second-most amount of money the event has ever raised.
“I’m so proud of the efforts made to make this event a success,” said RHS Principal Dominique Bertrand. “Our Russell High School community really has school spirit and generous hearts.”