What do you get when you cross the Denver Nuggets, slam-dunks and a whole lot of Catholics?
For the third year in a row, the Denver Nuggets are hosting Catholic Families Night at the Pepsi Center on Sunday, Nov. 20, where they will face-off against the Utah Jazz for a regular season game. As with last year, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will be the special guest for the evening’s game, and Catholic youth from around the archdiocese will have the chance to be directly involved with the game, including VIP experiences, the flag presentation, and forming a high-five tunnel for the Nugget before the game.
“Catholic Families Night is a wonderful chance for the faithful of northern Colorado to gather for an evening of fun, fellowship and faith,” Archbishop Aquila said. “It is a great witness for the Catholic community to come and enjoy a basketball game together, and I’m grateful to the Denver Nuggets for hosting this special night for Catholics. I look forward to cheering them on to a victory over the Utah Jazz!”
Catholic Families Night was originally organized in 2013 by Gold Grown Foundation CEO and former Denver Nugget Bill Hanzlik, in conjunction with Jeff Stemper of the Denver chapter of the Saint Sebastian Project, Tom Sauer and Mark Strawbridge, director of the Denver Catholic Schools Athletic League.
Last year, ticket packages were offered in which “supporters” could buy bundles of tickets to give away to priests, nuns, and other religious. They gave over 900 tickets away last year, and they hope to give away even more the year.
One of the big draws of the event, besides being able to attend a Denver Nuggets game for cheap, is the Basketball clinic for youth that takes place before the big game.
“The clinics are really good. It’s just fun for the kids,” Hanzlik said. “We tell them to wear their school basketball uniforms if they can.”
This year, the pre-game activities will happen from 1-4 p.m. on the main court of the Pepsi Center. Local speakers Brad and Joia Farmer will give a talk to the kids, followed by a basketball clinic for 4th-8th grade boys and girls led by local Catholic high school basketball coaches. After the clinic, 8th grade boys and girls will play full games on the Nuggets court.
A portion of the proceeds from Catholic Families night will once again benefit the Denver chapter of the Saint Sebastian Project, a nonprofit organization that provides grants to schools for their athletic programs. The Saint Sebastian Project began in Los Angeles in 2008, and Stemper started the Denver chapter in 2011. Last year, Catholic Families Night raised $9,000 for Saint Sebastian.
The grants Saint Sebastian offers generally go to new sports uniforms or equipment for the schools. However, they also do what Stemper called “scholarshipping,” which helps to address the fees associated with enrolling a child in an athletic program. Stemper said that a lot of families have a hard time affording these fees, and are sometimes even forced to turn their children away from athletic programs, simply because they can’t afford them.
“We’ll grant money to help the schools pay those fees,” Stemper said. “We’re up to about 18 schools that we currently help in the Denver Metro area.”
Annunciation Catholic School in Denver is one example of a school that Saint Sebastian has actively assists with paying athletic fees. Other schools they’ve helped include Arrupe Jesuit High School, where they bought new soccer uniforms for the soccer team, and St. Francis de Sales School, where helped them buy a new scoreboard.
Catholic Families Night
Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz
Sunday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m.
1000 Chopper Cir. Denver, CO
Tickets: Lower/club level: $47, Upper level: $15
To be involved in the clinic and pre-game activities, youth can purchase a ticket at nuggetstix.com/1617catholicfamilies and then contact Mark Strawbridge at email@example.com