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Ten years on, Northampton friends to donate basketball court in memory of classmates

  • Mike O'Brien of Florence, left, and Sam Caruso of Northampton are shown on the basketball court May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The two founded League Legends, a nonprofit to honor their late classmates David Holman and Miles Adams, who passed away in 2007. With their fundraising, one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops will be added to Ryan Road during the summer. Behind them, third-grader Jayden Childs plays on the old court. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Above, Sam Caruso of Northampton, second from left, and Mike O’Brien of Florence play basketball during recess with fourth-graders Nolan Earle, left, Riley McDonald and Tristan Thibedau, Wednesday, at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by O’Brien and Caruso, also shown at left, both friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY PHOTOS

  • Fourth-graders Sarah Killip-Leonard, left, and Sara Hoeckh play basketball during recess May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Fourth-graders Sarah Killip-Leonard, left, Tristan Thibedau and Nolan Earle play basketball during recess with Sam Caruso of Northampton May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, former classmates of Caruso, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Fourth-graders Sara Hoeckh, left, and Sarah Killip-Leonard play basketball during recess May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mike O'Brien of Florence, left, and Sam Caruso of Northampton are shown on the basketball court May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The two founded League Legends, a nonprofit to honor their late classmates Miles Adams and David Holman, who passed away in 2007. With their fundraising, one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops will be added to Ryan Road during the summer.

  • Mike O'Brien of Florence, left, and Sam Caruso of Northampton are shown on the basketball court May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The two founded League Legends, a nonprofit to honor their late classmates David Holman and Miles Adams, who passed away in 2007. With their fundraising, one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops will be added to Ryan Road during the summer.

  • Fourth-grader Nolan Earle plays basketball during recess May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Fourth-graders Nolan Earle, left, Sarah Killip-Leonard, Kyle Ackerman and Sara Hoeckh play basketball during recess May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by Mike O'Brien of Florence, back left, and Sam Caruso of Northampton, both friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Old photos of Miles Adams and David Holman, both of whom passed away in 2007, are shown Wednesday at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The nonprofit League Legends was formed to honor the two and has raised funds for one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops at Ryan Road. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Mike O'Brien of Florence, left, and Sam Caruso of Northampton are shown on the basketball court May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The two founded League Legends, a nonprofit to honor their late classmates David Holman and Miles Adams, who passed away in 2007. With their fundraising, one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops will be added to Ryan Road during the summer. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An old photo of David Holman, who passed away in 2007, is shown May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The nonprofit League Legends was formed to honor him and has raised funds for one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops at Ryan Road. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • An old photo of Miles Adams, who passed away in 2007, is shown May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. The nonprofit League Legends was formed to honor him and has raised funds for one new basketball court featuring lights and adjustable hoops at Ryan Road. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Fourth-grader Tristan Thibedau, left, and Mike O'Brien of Florence play basketball during recess May 24, 2017 at R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School in Florence. This summer, the school will be adding a new basketball court with lights and adjustable hoops in honor of David Holman and Miles Adams, former classmates of O'Brien, both of whom passed away in 2007. League Legends, a local nonprofit founded by friends and former classmates of the two, raised funds for the project. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@amandadrane
Published: 5/24/2017 8:40:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A lot has changed for Mike O’Brien, Sam Caruso and their friends in the past 10 years, but basketball at Ryan Road isn’t one of them.

The group played ball at the school throughout their time at Northampton High School. Then, shortly after they graduated in 2007, they lost two of their best friends in two separate crashes.

“That tore apart our community and left me and my classmates and peers devastated,” said Caruso, among the founders of the volunteer-driven nonprofit League Legends.

Now, the organization — spearheaded by O’Brien, Caruso and others who loved Miles Adams and David Holman — is preparing to donate a new basketball court to the school. They’ve set aside about $10,000 from years of fundraising and are launching a campaign to raise what’s required to build a court worthy of their late friends’ legacies.

To build the basketball court they envision will cost about $70,000.

“We’re hoping to break ground in August,” O’Brien said. “If we do really well (with fundraising) we’ll do it all in one shot.”

Both the City Council and School Committee have approved the project. For Ryan Road Principal Sarah Madden, who’s been known to reward students with a game of one-on-one with the principal, the court is a welcome addition.

“I think that schools are the foundations of communities, and it’s great to have this new addition to our property,” she said. “Physical fitness and basketball are good for youth and for adults.”

The friends say they also give out about $4,000 every year to NHS in scholarships. They have consistently fundraised throughout the years at basketball tournaments and other community events they’ve held, each year banking a little with a memorial basketball court in mind.

“Ten years later, it’s sort of exploded,” Caruso said. “Our long-term goal is to keep this going so we can keep Miles and David in our hearts.”

League Legends is putting on a free outdoor movie night at Look Park’s Pines Theater on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. The movie of the night will be the 1990s classic “Homeward Bound.” Those interested in donating to League Legends can do so online, or by visiting them on Saturday. They’ll have a table where people can buy a brick for the pending memorial and have it engraved with a message.

O’Brien and Caruso said when they were in high school their group of friends started a basketball league to bring the community together. When Adams and Holman died, they decided it was more important than ever to keep that tradition alive. Now their net has widened — they aim to bring the broader community together by serving as a supplement to the city’s recreation department.

“We are 100 percent volunteer. We’re pretty proud of that,” O’Brien said. “I think we’ve learned a lot and grown as people, ourselves.”

It all began with the group of friends gathering at Ryan Road to “goof off” each night in the dark.

“That was our little basketball haven, there,” O’Brien said. “It’s kind of a full-circle project.”

He said there’s no court in the city that’s designed for competitive play, and none of them has lights.

“Sometimes there will be cars right underneath the basket you want to shoot at,” O’Brien said of the existing court at Ryan Road.

O’Brien said League Legends has no intentions of stopping at Ryan Road. He said he’d like to see the organization continue, refurbishing other area basketball courts.

“It’s got a really big social element to it,” he said. “It’s a way I’ve been able to stay in touch with my friends over the years, and not just David and Miles.”

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.


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