Denver Nuggets to host third annual Catholic Families Night

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.

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 20: Children from local Catholic schools hold the flag during the National Anthem at the Denver Nuggets' Catholic families night at the Pepsi Center on December 20, 2015, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

Children from local Catholic schools hold the flag during the National Anthem at the Denver Nuggets’ Catholic families night at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 20, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

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.
Pepsi Center
1000 Chopper Cir. Denver, CO
Tickets: Lower/club level: $47, Upper level: $15
Purchase: nuggetstix.com/catholicfamilies1617

 

Pre-game activities

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 mark.strawbridge@goodsheperddenver.org

COMING UP: Denver Nuggets and families team up for second annual Catholic Families Night

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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
Purchase: nuggetstix.com/1516catholicfamilies