Youth basketball tournament to remember Highlands coach, support Callender family
The shock of the loss of a beloved Highlands coach is subsiding, but the need to help his family and keep his memory alive remains.
The second annual Coach Tom Callender Memorial Basketball Tournament will bring people together to celebrate his life and help his family, said Kate Bielak of Harrison, who again is planning and organizing the one-day event.
Callender was 39 when he died from an apparent heart attack in December 2017. He left behind his wife, Selena Callender, and five children — Ally, Abby, Ethan, Tommy and Marissa.
He was known throughout the Highlands and Harrison communities through his coaching of youth basketball and baseball.
“We don’t want the family to think that we’ve forgotten about them,” Bielak said. “Because of how Coach Callender passed, it was very, very shocking and caught the family off-guard.”
Bielak said the first youth basketball tournament a year ago was held to help his family handle the immediate costs. It was successful, raising more than its $5,000 goal.
They’re having the tournament again “to help this large family still cope financially with the loss of their provider,” Bielak said. “It’s also a way to pay respect for a coach that served so much for our community.”
The tournament will be held in gyms at Highlands High School and middle school between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Boys teams from Highlands and a dozen other schools will participate. In addition to Highlands, teams from Armstrong, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Freeport Area, Kiski Area, Mars Area, Mary Queen of Apostles, Riverview, South Allegheny and South Butler will be there.
Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades will be playing.
Highlands will have teams in the fourth and fifth grade games, Bielak said. Callender’s son, Ethan, plays on the fourth-grade team. Callender’s best friend and fellow coach, Mike Foster, coaches the fifth grade team.
Students in the Highlands varsity and junior varsity basketball programs will be volunteering at the tournament, Bielak said. Abby Callender is on the junior varsity girls team. Tommy Callender is on the seventh grade boys team.
Games will start on the hour, every hour, until the championship games starting at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The event will also include a 50-50 raffle, basket raffle and food concessions.
All proceeds will go to the Callender family.
Donations can also be made to the Thomas P. Callender Memorial Fund at First Commonwealth Bank.
With more teams participating this year, Bielak said they considered holding the tournament over two days, but couldn’t support that.
“People in this community really understand the importance of supporting each other,” Bielak said.
Brian Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .