Student-run Court of Dreams charity event raises $5,000

Sophie Rukin , Staff Writer

Last Friday, Daniel Cornstein (11) hosted a Courts of Dreams-sponsored fundraising event at the school. The event featured two basketball games titled “Courts of Dreams Classic” against Fieldston — one played by the Girls Varsity Basketball Team (GVB) and one played by the Boys Varsity Basketball Team (BVB). GVB won with a score of 51-43 and BVB lost with a score of 43-60. The event raised over $5,000 for new projects throughout the city, Cornstein said.

The Courts of Dreams charity was founded fifteen years ago by Cornstein’s parents to restore basketball courts in New York City, Cornstein said. The idea for the charity came from a combined love for basketball and philanthropy. “My dad worked in basketball and always wanted to be charitable.” 

Three years ago when Cornstein entered high school, his parents’ passed the charity onto him. “I’ve always had a huge interest in giving back to the community as well as basketball, so it’s a perfect hybrid of my two interests,” he said.

After taking over the charity, many of Cornstein’s friends got involved, Board Member Julia Philips (11) said. Phillips helps to keep track of donations, organize fundraising, and write thank you notes, she said. “The charity started as just a group of kids in our grade, but has recently expanded to more grade levels.”

The organization has restored basketball courts like the Woodlawn Playground in Van Cortlandt Park, board member Chase Forbes (11) said. “We work to restore and refurbish courts in underprivileged communities where, unfortunately, they don’t have the resources to do it themselves.”

The event featured a raffle station, a donation table, and free shirts. While there was a suggested donation, there was no entrance fee. “It was a great school event, with a lot of spirit and energy to promote the cause,” Phillips said.

The players on the court felt that positive energy, GVB player Alexa Blackman (9) said. “A lot more people showed up than usual, and you could tell the energy was different.” While there was added pressure for the players on the court because of the increased number of fans, the team was confident because they knew they could beat Fieldston, she said. “We were the better team and we played well.”

The extra crowd support was super motivating, Ava Parento (9) said. “This was a game we went into hoping to win because Fieldston’s not really doing great in the league and they are our rivals,” she said. “It was really fun that we were able to play them and then also win a big game with so many people there.”

The win reflected all the hard work the team has put in over the course of the season, Parento said. “Now that we’ve been kind of playing together more, we’re definitely playing as a team more on with more cohesion and we’re better able to cut and pass.” The team’s improvement was apparent during the game, she said.

The GVB Courts of Dreams Classic was a great experience, GVB Coach Ray Barile said. “We were just happy to be a part of it.” Playing for such a positive cause was really nice, he said. “We also just love when people watch our games, so the large turnout was nice.”

The BVB game had a similar positive energy, Ryan Lutnick (11) said. “Playing in the Courts of Dreams game and wearing the shirts was really special,” he said. “It was a pleasure to help promote awareness of the cause to the broader school community.”

Even though BVB lost their game, it was a great experience, Lutnick said. “We leave it all on the court,” he said. “We can’t let the loss affect us too much, especially when the game had a much deeper purpose.”

The event was a huge success, Phillips said. “I go to basketball games sometimes, and there were definitely a lot more people supporting the game than usual because of the charity,” she said. “The most important thing was that a lot of people gained awareness of what Courts of Dreams is and we were able to spread awareness to the community.” 

Originally, Cornstein was worried that few fans would show up to the games, he said. “It was a late game on a holiday weekend Friday so I knew it would be somewhat hard to get a good attendance.” To Cornstein’s surprise, the stands were full of supporting fans. “It definitely exceeded my expectations in terms of both turnout and fundraising,” he said.

Forbes hopes that more students at the school and in NYC will gain an awareness of Courts of Dreams, and the charity’s message. “It’s a great honor to work with Courts of Dreams because oftentimes parks and playgrounds are where children have their most joyous memories.”