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Bob Ryan

Why ABCD’s ‘Hoop Dreams’ is such an important event

ABCD's "Hoop Dreams" offers a chance to play on the parquet floor at TD Garden.Mary Schwalm/FR158029 AP via AP

You grew up around here and you are a basketball fan. You might have played high school basketball, maybe even some college. At the very least you cherish those three-on-three or four-on-four games at the local Y. And when you’ve gone to TD Garden and seen the banners and the parquet floor, you’ve fantasized about what it would be like to play there.

Well, you can.

What you need is the right boss.

You need a community-minded boss at your place of work, one who will pick up the phone and call Liz McCarthy at 617-348-6244 and say, “I just heard about ABCD ‘Hoop Dreams’ at the Garden and I want to sponsor a team.”

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What is ABCD, you say? Action for Boston Community Development is a vital organization that has been serving the entire Boston community — and by “entire” I mean every section of the city, regardless of race or origin, as well as every age group from toddler to centenarian — for more than 60 years. The stated mission is to secure what it calls a “pathway out of poverty.” It begins with the Head Start program and continues through the Foster Grandparent program, among other elderly services.

Among the myriad programs are those involving fuel assistance, water assistance, energy conservation, housing needs (including helping to prevent foreclosure and eviction), legal services for the poor, and a variety of youth services such as SummerWorks, where low-income youth get paid positions at nonprofit organizations, and WorkSMART, which provides year-round academic support, career-readiness assistance, mentoring, and a supervised internship.

There are similar organizations in other urban locales. “But ABCD has a reputation across the country as being a model,” asserts newly appointed CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler. She proudly points out that more than one Head Start child has gone on to graduate from college and become an adult instructor for an ABCD program.

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John Harrington was the first local professional leader to step up for ABCD. No doubt overruling the objections of crusty head groundskeeper Joe Mooney, he graciously provided Fenway Park as the site for a fund-raiser called “Field of Dreams,” in which local corporations would fund softball teams to play on the hallowed grounds when the Red Sox were out of town. That was a quarter-century ago, and the tradition has been continued by John Henry, who also owns the Globe.

The Manhattan Project moment for “Hoop Dreams” was a Park Square dinner I shared 11 years ago with ABCD executive and longtime friend Bob Elias, and Doc Rivers. Doc said, “You’ve got ‘Field of Dreams’ at Fenway. Why couldn’t we have a ‘Hoop Dreams’ at the Garden?” So, put Doc down as the godfather of this event.

Brad Stevens and Doc Rivers have played a sizable role in the development of ABCD's "Hoop Dreams" program.Barry Chin

I’m taking no bows here. I was just playing the Forrest Gump role.

When Doc left the Celtics for the Clippers job he was able to pass the baton to Brad Stevens. One of the features of the evening is the postgame, when I will once again be moderating a Q&A with Stevens. Brad has become an enthusiastic supporter of ABCD and will once again be sharing this evening with us. You will come away feeling a lot smarter after listening to Brad Stevens, I can assure you.

Doc has been known to make the trip back here from California for the event, but he sends his regrets this time. It’s going to be a crucial season for his 76ers, and he won’t be able to break away, the Sept. 21 date being a bit too close to the start of training camp.

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“I love ‘Hoop Dreams’ and everything it supports at ABCD,” Doc says. “Fans get a rare chance to play on the parquet floor. It’s fun and very competitive. We need your support of this amazing event. Get a team together and come join in the fun.”

Harrington got this idea of local team partnership going. TD Garden CEO Amy Latimer keeps it alive, and ABCD is very grateful. “There are a lot of nonprofits elsewhere that cannot access these kind of facilities,” points out Scott-Chandler.

The date is Sept. 21. Oh, and keep in mind that many a team participating is coed. So give Liz McCarthy that call at 617-348-6244.

Here’s a bonus. I will personally thrust a $10 bill into the hand of anyone making a bona fide hook shoot. And I’ll take that player’s boss to lunch.

Where else can you get a deal like that?


Bob Ryan can be reached at robert.ryan@globe.com.