The Denver Nuggets and Colorado Catholic community are teaming up once again for a night of slam-dunks and family fun.
The second annual Catholic Families Night is happening at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 20, and it’s expected to be bigger and better than last year. The Denver Nuggets are facing off against the New Orleans Pelicans, and in addition to what is sure to be an exciting game, it’s going to be a fun night out for Catholic families. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will be in attendance, and a portion of the proceeds will once again benefit the Saint Sebastian Project, a non-profit organization that assists Catholic schools with their sports programs.
Catholic Families Night is the brainchild of Bill Hanzlik, who is the co-founder and CEO of the Gold Crown Foundation. A parishioner at St. Thomas More parish and a former Denver Nugget, Hanzlik noticed programs such as Catholic Schools Night happening in association with some of Colorado’s sports teams and came up with the concept for Catholic Families Night based on that idea.
His close connection with the Nuggets enabled him to make this dream a reality, and he, along with Jeff Stemper, founder of the Denver chapter of the Saint Sebastian Project, his friend Tom Sauer and Mark Strawbridge, former principal at Good Shepherd Catholic School, collaborated on ways to market the event.
Hanzlik is hopeful this year’s Catholic Families Night will be even bigger than last year’s. His goal is selling between 4000 and 5000 tickets.
“[Last year] we had 1600 tickets sold, we had a great night, and yet we knew we could do so much more,” Hanzlik said. “I am really excited about this year.”
Nuggets tickets can be rather expensive, so one of the goals they had was making the game more affordable so people could experience the excitement of a professional basketball game in a fun, family-friendly environment. They were able to get a great deal on tickets, with $15 for upper level seats and $45 for lower level seats.
In an effort to draw as many Catholics as possible, there are also corporate supporter packages available in which purchasers can buy packages of tickets to then distribute to clergy, teachers and other members of the Catholic community.
The night will feature pre-game activities for students and youth to participate in fin activities before the game, including a full-court scrimmage for 8th grade students and a basketball clinic for students in 5th through 8th grade on the floor of the Pepsi Center. There will also be fan experiences in which kids can run through a high-five tunnel with the Nuggets before the game and hold the flag for the National Anthem, which is being performed by the Our Lady of Lourdes school choir.
“[It’ll] be awesome for these kids to be able to play at the Pepsi Center. [You can] imagine as an 8th grader how cool that would be,” Stemper said.
“Seeing those smiles, that’s what excites me,” Hanzlik added.
The response to Catholic Families Night on 2014 was very positive. Lots of people said they were happy that there was a Catholic event being held through organizations other than the schools and that they were able to be a part of it, Hanzlik said. Hanzlik and Stemper want to bring the entire Catholic community together for a night of fun and fellowship, and there’s been a lot of pieces in making it happen.
“The Nuggets have helped, the Catholic community has helped, and all told, it’s going to really help Saint Sebastian at the end of the day,” Hanzlik said. “It’s a great [night] that incorporates our Catholic community in a really positive, fun environment.”
They plan on making Catholic Families Night an annual event, and they hope it continues to grow each year.
“We might sell out [the Pepsi Center],” Hanzlik said. “We’ll just take the whole arena.”
Catholic Families Night is on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. Lower level tickets are $15, and upper level tickets are $45. For more information, visit saintsebastiandenver.org. To order tickets, visit nuggetstix.com/1516catholicfamilies.
Catholic Families Night with the Denver Nuggets
Where: Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Cir., Denver, CO
When: Sunday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m.
Pre-game events: Basketball scrimmage for 8th grade students, clinic for 5th through 8th grade students
Tickets: $15 upper level, $45 lower level