Grind Out Hunger Hosts First Annual Celebrity Hardwood Classic

Reggie Stephens of Cruzmatik dribbles up the floor.
Reggie Stephens of Cruzmatik dribbles up the floor.

A true comedy of errors all in the name of fighting childhood hunger

Kaiser Permanente Arena was full of action Sunday Night, but it wasn't the Santa Cruz Warriors hitting the court. 

Grind Out Hunger held its first annual Celebrity Hardwood Classic Sunday night.  Several hundred people attended the event, filled with errant passes, referee bribes, a mascot dance-off and a pseudo heart attack on the middle of the court.  It was all to raise money and awareness to fight childhood hunger.

Local celebrities, politicos and athletes including American Idol star James Durbin, Showbiz, Domingo, and Sam Diggedy from 102.5 KDON's Morning Madhouse show, Dale Julin of KSBW Action News 8, District Attorney Bob Lee, outgoing Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, Penny Ice Creamery owner Zach Daniels, UFC lightweight fighter Josh Thomson and many others.

Established in 2004, Grind Out Hunger has provided over 200,000 meals for local children.  The non-profit's CEO Danny Keith was grateful to see the community support and those that took time out of their holidays to participate in the event.

"This all came together in two weeks," said Keith while donning a referee shirt and an afro wig, highlighting the off-the-wall fun to expect during the game. 

New Leaf Community Markets and Alterra Solar each sponsored their own teams for the event, with Scott Roseman, CEO of New Leaf and James and Nate Allen co-owners of Alterra Solar suiting up for their respective squads. 

It was an evening packed full of laughs and enjoyment for those in attendance, who only paid $10 to watch County Board of Supervisor Zach Friend throw numerous bad passes, or see former NFL player and member of Cruzmatik Reggie Stephens throw up an airball from three-point range. 

Durbin, whose newest album, Celebrate, releases April 8, knows the importance of raising awareness of childhood hunger.

"Growing up as a kid, my family used food stamps and the Second Harvest Food Bank," said Durbin. 

Rynell Williams, aka Showbiz from KDON's Morning Madhouse knows the importance of giving back, and more importantly, during this time of year,

"I'm very appreciative," said Williams, "It humbles you for the holidays knowing people are starving."

With his voice meeting thousands of listeners every morning during the week, Williams knows what his responsibility is to educate and promote worthy causes.

"I'm thankful for being in this area to have a job that I can do that," said Williams, "I'm happy to be a part of another beautiful, positive event in Santa Cruz."

For Durbin, this time of year reminds him of what he is grateful for in his life.

"I've been making a record the past year-and-a-half," said Durbin, "It's been really humbling and reminded me to not have a big head about anything and just be grateful and thankful for every moment, and every time I get to record or write a song and do something special for my community."

Many of the uniforms worn had custom titles on the back instead of the usual last names, including former Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty, otherwise known as the Hebrew Thunder. 

Though New Leaf won the game, 46-40, for Keith, the event meant both greater awareness and exposure for the cause all while putting on a show for the community.

"Everybody's going to have some fun, and at the end of day we've raised a little bit of money and awareness for childhood hunger," said Keith.

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