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By: Tom Cavanagh

The Cavanagh Classic ignites Harlem once again

June 14, 2017
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A long time ago, my wife Maureen and I experimented with ways to raise money for Nothing But Nets™. In our commitment to battle malaria to the best of our abilities, we tried many things: at first, we simply went door-to-door dressed in our Sunday finery. When that failed we tried dressing as large mosquitoes and handed out homemade cookies. That produced mixed results, although the cookies were a hit. We still weren’t happy with the level of awareness or money we were raising, so we put together a small music festival which was very successful and ballooned into Lilith Fair, but malaria got nary a penny. In quick succession we attempted a garage sale (some success), a pie-eating contest (more success), a dance (rip-roaring success) and a mime show (no success at all). 

We finally came up with a basketball game to raise awareness and money and it was a huge success, certainly more than the mime show. Having set fundraising goals early on, we found we had exceeded them before the game was even played. This year we were fortunate enough to have been part of Family Day up at Holcombe Rucker Park in Harlem, New York, which meant we benefited from the privileges of youth, namely free cherry ICEEs, pony rides, and a dance-off. The pregame generated the kind of hype that plays at The Rucker with G. Martin rendering a soaring rendition of the National Anthem, and B. Fats was on the mic throughout the day getting everyone in the neighborhood pumped up and urging people to come by and learn about Nothing But Nets™. Jomari Pinkard and Andre Britton injected class, integrity, and world class entertainment at the scoring table.

The crowd heard a quick speech by the fabulous Julie Willig about the goal of Nothing But Nets and the Cavanagh Classic. We talked about the fact that a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria, and it is our goal to stop that. Every $10 we raise buys a mosquito net and we’ve seen dropping mortality rates in communities where we’ve delivered nets. It is a clean, simple pipeline and it works. 

The game itself, played at the home of Entertainers Classic, proved to be exactly that. The boys came out hot and ready from the start and both teams played tooth-and-nail in a hard-fought contest that went down to the final buzzer. There were no-looks from Rory “Free” Wheeler, paint jobs from Andrew “Affirmative Action” Ecker, window cleanin’ from Dave “Fab” Forbes and heady play from Gary “Big” Apple including one highlight reel move that should play on a loop on ESPN’s “Sports Reporters.” 

The day was humid with temperatures reaching into the 90’s but that did not deter the lads as they played with pace right down to the final whistle with coaches Annie “Winthrop” Lutzenkirchen and Maureen “Hollah” Hollahan strategizing to the beat band. The crowd saw everything you could ask for, including shocker defense (Thanks, Deemo!). There was ball-handling wizardry from Danny “K” Kanzmon, inside/outside magic from Chris “Late-arrival-befitting a top model of the country” Collins and long distance marksmanship from Doug “Stick-it” Pickett. But MVP honors on this day went to Gene “Hate Robinson” Hackett for his fearless forays to the basket and all-around good energy, an inspiration for both the game and the cause. Indeed, we owe thanks to all of the players for their ability to represent Nothing But Nets with goodwill, exemplary sportsmanship, and class.

Gratitude also extends to a number of others who were quick to offer their support to the cause. The Rucker, of course, and Greg Marius of the EBC for supplying the mecca of playground basketball and the smooth operation and operators that accompany it; the New York Yankees, for supplying gifts that had the children who won the half-time competition slack-jawed in amazement; the UN for their unflagging desire to make malaria an ex-disease; Julie Willig for being there to support us and Adrianna Logalbo for her ongoing support and for sending countless wristbands and t-shirts for the eager crowd; Maureen Cavanagh and Sports Illustrated magazine for organizing and supporting the event and also allowing the game to shine through the lenses of some of our nation’s top sports photographers. This year’s Classic was covered in classic style by the talents of Jacob Murphy.  We thank him for both the featured photographs and his support of Nothing But Nets.

See you all next year! 


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