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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Lions NJ after they defeated Team NYC 16-6.

“He shoots and scores!” In the new age of fundraising, these words are commonly heard. Organizations across the area are running events that not only bring in needed funds, but also provide fun environment where the participants can use their passion for sports to fundraise for a worthy cause. There have been biking events, baseball events, basketball events and even most recently, a cooking competition. So, what sets the RCCS Classic apart from all these other events? What is so unique about this new campaign that it is sending after-shocks throughout the fundraising community? The answer is that this event has tapped into a sport that is fueled by skill and a passion that are unparalleled in the world of sports. Until now, this fervency has flown under the radar in the Jewish world, but that is all about to change. The RCCS Classic Ice Hockey Tournament is calling upon all Jewish ice hockey players to come out and utilize their love for hockey as a vehicle to save the lives of cancer patients throughout the global Jewish community, and the response has been deafening.

The two-tiered RCCS Classic will be played over two days, Saturday night April 14, and Sunday April 15. Teams will be guaranteed two play-in games, before the single elimination league based tournament which will begin Sunday afternoon, culminating in each respective tournament champion. There will be a family friendly atmosphere on Sunday, with giveaways, family skating and even an exclusive kids’ skills clinic, with professional stick-handling coach, Sean Skinner (who happens to be playing for Team Monsey).

In our community of North Jersey, there are two teams playing in the tournament. One team, Lions NJ, is captained by David Markowitz of Bergenfield. Another team, captained by Yosh Jacobson, features many players from the Paramus area. What makes this team unique, is that every dollar that the team raises, will be in memory of Yosh’s father, Areye Yoel ben Chaim Gavriel, who tragically lost a battle to cancer.

All the proceeds of this event will go to benefit RCCS, an organization that though its, insurance premium subsidy program, financial grants, insurance advocacy, critical social services, and invaluable direction to medical professionals, makes cancer care more accessible. Currently, over 2300 cancer patients throughout the world are being helped by RCCS, and the money raised in this tournament, will ensure that no cancer patient in the global Jewish community is denied the help that he or she so desperately needs.

While the wonderful stories of RCCS are numerous, one comes to mind. It involved a patient Jacob A. from Teaneck. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and wanted to see one of the top specialists in the field. Being just diagnosed and filled with anxiety and fear, he hoped that a trip to this well-regarded specialist would give him and his family the assurance that they so desperately desired. When Jacob called the hospital, he was informed that the waiting list for this doctor was six months and there was nothing that could be done to expedite the appointment.

Jacob was crestfallen and didn’t know where to turn. A friend of him advised him to reach out to RCCS. Jacob was skeptical and hesitant to take his friend’s advice. With nowhere else to turn, Jacob called RCCS and explained to them his situation. The staff at RCCS jumped into action, and with their extensive knowledge and connections to the top specialists, was able to reach out to the specialist, after hours on his cell phone. The staff explained to the doctor the situation and a few hours later, Jacob had an appointment and was on his way to a path of treatment and recovery.

So how did this tournament come to be? When two longtime friends, Gabriel Jacobson of Pomona and Yisroel Mayer Merkin of RCCS started to talk about the idea, there was a lot of skepticism. Do Jewish people really play ice hockey? Isn’t that a sport reserved for guys in Canada and Russia? Even if they do play, how would a tournament possibly work? It wasn’t like a basketball tournament, where all one needs is a basketball and a basket. This is ice hockey and you need a large facility with more than one rink to be able to hold all the teams that you would try to attract to play. Undeterred, Jacobson and Merkin began to do the research, to see if there was a market for such an event, and where it could take place. The answers they found were extremely encouraging and the groundwork was set for this great event.

As an avid hockey player himself, Jacobson realized that there many people in the Monsey area that played on a weekly basis. Merkin, after speaking with many individuals, realized that there are people playing throughout the greater tri state area, and were so excited about the idea of the tournament, as there had never been a Jewish ice hockey tournament in the United States before. Once they saw that they had the interest, next up was the location.

They found an arena out in Morristown that had three rinks, including a main rink that could seat over 2500 spectators, a perfect stage for the eventual championship. Located less than 10 minutes away from the facility was the Wyndham Conference center, which could serve as the hotel for all of the players. With the event taking shape, now the only question was would people, who had shown tremendous interest, sign up? That question was answered almost immediately.

Within a week of launching the website, www.rccsclassic.org, all the 12 teams were sold out. Less than two months later, over 190 players had already joined on. The excitement of this event was spreading around the entire Jewish community. With teams coming from North Jersey, New York City, Monsey, Brooklyn, Westchester, Lakewood and Long Island, the tournament was connecting with members of every Jewish community.

I don’t know about you, but I will be taking out my skates from the attic to make sure that I am ready for April 14. This event seems like it is going to be a memorable one and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.