Ah, springtime in the Rockies! Sun, flowers blooming, some snowflakes—and for sports fans, watching the NCAA basketball semifinals at National Jewish Health’s Hoops & Hoopla. For the past 11 years, the annual fundraiser has become a rite of spring in Denver for both b-ball fans and NJH supporters. It’s always a slam dunk to host a party surrounding the last four men’s college basketball teams as they battle it out for a spot in the national championship game. But NJH planners take it above and beyond with accompanying party details that are sumptuous and guest-friendly. Ultimately the true winners are always the event’s beneficiaries: students at the Morgridge Academy on the NJH campus.

On Saturday, April 5, almost 400 settled in at Sports Authority Field’s East Club Level to catch the hoops action on tons of TVs. The event began with a pre-game open bar and snacks, along with a busy silent auction. Guests also had the opportunity to test their athletic skills with a spectrum of sports games plus some just-for-fun gaming tables including poker and roulette. Epicurean Catering provided a hearty gourmet buffet as event-goers sat down to watch the end of the UConn-Florida game while indulging in tasty chow.

Honorees: Heart of a Champion award, Bill Gregor (left); and Rookie of the Year, Ryan Wilson

Honorees: Heart of a Champion award, Bill Gregor (left); and Rookie of the Year, Ryan Wilson

Between games, a short program included remarks by board chair Rich Schierburg, who talked about the mission to house, feed, educate and treat students with chronic illnesses at Morgridge Academy, and the goal to get them back to public schools—all provided at no cost. Three awards were presented to deserving honorees: Greiner Electric, whose employees raised $40,000 for the cause, accepted the MVP trophy; Bill Gregor was honored with the Heart of a Champion award; and Ryan Wilson was named Rookie of the Year. As the second game began, guests finalized auction bids and settled in for a nail-biter between Kentucky and Wisconsin. The last two teams standing at night’s end: 7 and 8 seeds, UConn and Kentucky.

The Morgridge Academy is a unique, day school program for approximately 90 students in grades K-8 who require medical assistance during the normal school day. The school, approved by the Colorado Department of Education, is dedicated to help children who have medical problems that have caused frequent absences from mainstream schools.

National Jewish Health is the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. Founded 115 years ago as a nonprofit hospital, NJH today is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. Patients and families come to National Jewish Health from around the world to receive cutting-edge, comprehensive, coordinated care. For a resource to stay informed about what is happening at the institution and to learn more about the conditions treated, please visit: NJHealth.org.