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Armor donates $25,000 to Red Cross tornado relief

Date: 7/18/2011

July 18, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD — It was a gesture that Mayor Domenic Sarno likened to a Scottie Reynolds game-winning three-point shot.

At a July 13 press event, the Springfield Armor presented the Pioneer Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross a donation of $25,000 toward tornado relief efforts to cap what was a unique, three-step fund-raiser by the team.

Sarno and Armor General Manager Alex Schwerin helped present a giant check to Maureen Hayes, chair of the Pioneer Valley board of the American Red Cross on behalf of the team, its ownership and its league affiliates.

“I think it’s remarkable. We can’t do what we do without the donations we receive,” Hayes told Reminder Publications. “The Armor came up with a very creative approach, got right in there early on and started to raise the money.”

Schwerin said becoming involved in the tornado relief effort was a no-brainer for him and the organization.

“We want to be part of the community and this is our home just as much as it is for the people who live here,” he said.

Owner Michael Savit said in a statement released by the team, “We’re thrilled to be able to give back and help those in need in Springfield and the surrounding communities. The positive response we’ve received from the New Jersey Nets, the NBA [National Basketball Association], and especially our fans in the Pioneer Valley and beyond, has been overwhelming and we’re committed to being at the forefront of the efforts to rebuild and move forward.”

Schwerin explained the team’s three-pronged approach to the fund-raising effort, which started with an online auction of memorabilia from the Armor, the team’s NBA affiliate, the New Jersey Nets, the Boston Celtics and retired NBA player Dikembe Mutombo.

“On the drive home the day of the tornado, I called Eli [Pearlstein], our director of marketing and public relations, and told him we had to come up with some ideas on how to raise some money and he was the one who really spearheaded the idea of the auction,” Schwerin said. “I think it was important to get our fans involved in a unique way that wasn’t just the normal avenues they would have to donate.

“I think that was important, not only activating our fans in our team’s effort to raise money, but also to give them an opportunity to have access to things they normally wouldn’t. It’s not everyday we’re auctioning off signed jerseys or game-worn shorts and those kinds of things,” he added.

The Armor also announced in June that 25 percent of all revenue from season ticket sales made between June 3 and 17 would be donated to tornado relief.

“We realized that 25 percent is a large portion of our profit, but this was something that was very important to us,” Schwerin said.

The Armor finished off their fund-raising effort through cash donations received from fans, the New Jersey Nets, the HWS Group that owns the Armor and the NBA.

Hayes said the money would go to good use for the people of the Pioneer Valley, as have all monetary donations since the disaster.

“It was a 39-mile tornado path and it went a half-mile wide in certain areas. It impacted 19 communities and the Red Cross was out in all of them assisting with shelters, operating shelters and going out with emergency response vehicles,” she said.

Schwerin said he was appreciative of all the support the Armor’s initiatives received.

“Obviously the tornado made national news and everyone heard about it. Fairly immediately folks that work with us on the national stage, whether it be the New Jersey Nets or other folks in the NBA family, were reaching out to us to make sure everything was alright,” Schwerin said. “We turned that conversation into, ‘Hey, this is what we’re looking to do,’ so [the fund-raising effort] became something everyone got involved in.”

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