Athletic Tournament Honors Firefighter

Jack M. Martins

From Newsday

By Aisha Al-Muslim

Aspiring young athletes gave it their all on the court as they shed sweat and tears during a sports tournament Saturday in Elmont dedicated to a late New York City firefighter from the community.

Students from fifth grade through college from Elmont and surrounding communities showed off their athletic skills during the eighth annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Dutch Broadway School.

"I call this the largest family reunion of generations of Elmont," said Scott Cushing, tournament committee chairman.

The tournament is in honor of David Dangerfield, who served for nearly two decades in the Fire Department of the City of New York, including at Ground Zero. After he died in 2009 at age 51, the event was dedicated to him because of his involvement in Elmont athletics.

"I know right now, my father is smiling down on us," said David "Deuce" Dangerfield II, 22, who is enrolled in the fire academy in Palm Beach, Fla.

The kids also enjoyed a slam dunk competition, 3-point shooting contest, a soccer clinic, rock climbing and 7-on-7 football games. The players even got free massages. Former Knicks player John Starks also made a special appearance.

The event, sponsored by State Sen. Jack M. Martins, State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the Town of Hempstead, has grown from 160 kids and 11 volunteers in the first year to more than 3,000 participants and 200 volunteers from high school and college, Cushing said.

Dillon Williams, 17, and his teammates from the Elmont Memorial Varsity Boys Basketball Team, which won the Nassau County Class AA championship this year, tried their hand at wheelchair basketball. They played against a team from the Albertson-based Henry Viscardi School, which is for students with physical disabilities and health impairments.

Denise Stropkay of Garden City cheered on her daughter Dayna Stropkay, 20, who was born with cerebral palsy and played during moments of aggressive blocks and steals.

"Playing basketball gives her a whole sense of freedom and just the feeling of accomplishment and pride," Denise Stropkay said.

Daniel Alexander, 15, said he and his Elmont teammates practiced playing basketball while on the wheelchairs for three hours Wednesday, he said. But all their practice wasn't enough to beat the Viscardi team, which won 70-53.

"I got to give it to them, they know what they are doing," Alexander said.