In the spring of 2016, a group of friends at Northwestern University came together with a purpose and a passion, the purpose being the elimination of cancer...and the passion? The sport of basketball. Over the course of their spring academic quarter, this small group planned and executed the first ever Spring Slam Streetball Classic, held on the outdoor Bobb-McCulloch courts on Northwestern's campus in Evanston, Illinois. The two-day event featured students from across the university, undergraduates and graduates alike, a food truck, and vibrant crowd support. But what this founding group came to realize was that the event was about so much more than the competition -- it was an infectiously positive community event. Sports, spring weather, school camaraderie all meshed to create a perfect storm of enthusiasm and excitement. So they decided to hone in on their goals and replicate their experience at campuses throughout the country.
Spring Slam's mission is to support the fight against cancer by funding cancer research efforts while bringing communities together through sport.
Cancer has a very personal relevance to our organization and research toward its cure is the driving force behind our efforts. Last spring, a member of our leadership team lost his mother to cancer — this was a loss that was felt profoundly in our community. Our team, brought together in large part by our shared residence in Bobb-McCulloch, saw Spring Slam as a unique opportunity to channel loss into support and into progress. The strong friendships we formed in the dorm had become an overwhelmingly positive part of our college experience and identity. Accordingly, we thought it would be fitting to remember this loss and the many people who have fallen victim to such a devastating disease by bringing the greater campus community together right outside a place that had come to mean so much to us and had come to represent friendship, camaraderie, and comfort.
What is so special about sports is that it brings out the best type of energy in everyone, players and onlookers alike. It is the epitome of exerting personal effort while recognizing the efforts of others, pushing to achieve while maintaining a strategic perspective, challenging others around you while respecting their abilities and their character. Sports brings out an infectious enthusiasm that spreads with ease, and we've witnessed this. We watched friends rally around each other in support and saw smiles on the faces of participants who put forth a heroic effort, to fall just short of advancing. The feeling of an event of this nature is inherently and overwhelmingly positive. Our goal is to capture people’s energy when they are at their best, when they are their most enthusiastic, for such a deserving mission. Cancer research is a large burden for humanity to bear and an extremely difficult challenge to take on, but we stand the best chance of tackling it when we are in a position to give our all and to encourage positivity in others. With that in mind, each Spring Slam campus will direct their philanthropic resources toward a local cancer research beneficiary.
In addition to facilitating our annual signature event, fundraising, and raising awareness for cancer research, we are working to expand our influence to the communities surrounding our participating campuses. We saw last spring, more than ever, that sports is an incredibly effective means of spreading good intentions and spirit. Going forward, we will be working to bring basketball tournaments, clinics, and other relevant events to the youth populations of these surrounding areas. We want to promote sports as a means of establishing friendships, as a means of supporting each other, and we want to be a unifying influence in as many communities as we can reach.
In terms of long-term perspective, we hope that Spring Slam will become a national network of not only basketball tournaments, but groups of highly-motivated people seeking to make a difference in the world by first making a difference in the morale of those around them. So what does the future hold? A national tournament featuring the champions from each campus? Hopefully. A national charity foundation geared toward making its own cancer research advancements? Hopefully. But in order to get there, we need to build a foundation of people committed to advancing our mission and our values. Starting from the ground up isn't a chore or a burden, rather an opportunity to customize our direction and priorities -- a challenge we love. We can't wait to see what's in store, and we hope you'll join us.