Last summer, Marblehead High students Billy Ackerman and Derek Marino managed to unite their hometown in less than a month. The two students, who both play (ed) varsity hoops for the Magicians, put together the first annual Shooting for Sophia tournament and brought in over $2,000.
The name of the 3-on-3 basketball tournament derives from 12-year old Marblehead resident Sophia Smith, who was diagnosed with a rare and inoperable brain tumor last spring. Ackerman and Marino, who are family friends of Smith, organized the event and donated all proceeds to the Smiths.
Ackerman is now not only looking to replicate last year's success ... he wants to blow it out of the water. The second annual Shooting for Sophia tournament will be held Thursday, July 19th at 6 p.m. at Gatchell's Park in Marblehead. For the rising senior, expectations are high this time around.
"It was a big success last summer," said Ackerman. "It raised a lot of money but it was done with quick planning. This time it's being put together with more advanced planning and we are expecting a huge turnout."
Ackerman was extremely grateful for the town banding together, but feels he has no time to rest on his laurels.
Sophia was only given 9-18 months to live after she was diagnosed with a DIPG brain tumor in March of 2017. Since there are no known cures in the U.S., the Smith family has traveled to London approximately ten times and their insurance doesn't cover the medical expenses, housing or airfare.
Despite all of the hardships, Ackerman says that Sophia continues to inspire the Marblehead community with her fighting spirit.
"She rarely complains and just wants to be a normal 12-year old girl. She loves the ocean, arts and crafts, baking and hanging out with her friends and family. Her strength and spirit are infectious to anyone that meets her."
Like last time, all proceeds will be donated to Sophia and her family. It costs $15 to register with both boys and girls ages 14-21 being eligible to participate. Anyone wishing to sign up for the event, visit Marblehead.org/recreation and click on the link.