36,000 free throws part of local fundraiser for sick children and their families

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Event raises money for children's hospitals in Cincinnati and Dayton, and feeds families at Ronald McDonald House

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Lakota West High School gymnasium has never had a workout like the one it did last weekend, when 81 teams took about 36,000 basketball free throws to help sick children and their families across the region.

Teams, with members from ages 7-80, took aim at 24 portable hoops during the Free Throws for Kids event April 7.

During the event, each team shoots 500 free throws, with the teams shooting the best percentages winning prizes. Other winners are the teams raising most money and the best shooters from each of three sessions through the day.

“The community support has been jaw-dropping,” said Mark Johnston, who is a lead event organizer, along with his wife, Sarah Johnston.

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The event is in its fifth year.

The all-volunteer staff expected the event to raise about $150,000 by day’s end.

Kasie Fulton of Hebron, Ky., who unexpectedly in 2016 received help from the charity, made the trip to the event with her son, Will Fulton, 7. They stayed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for 11 dayswhen Will has his third open-heart operation.

During that visit, the family received a care package of helpful items, including one small item that Kasie said touched her the most: Lip balm.

“It’s the things you don’t think about bringing because you’re thinking about him surviving,” she explained. “It’s amazing that people come together to help people like Will.”

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Each year, the Free Throws for Kids provides such care packages, containing about $125 worth of items, to 800 families at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Another effort of the charity is providing $1,500 monthly for salad-bar food for families that stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which houses families of sick children cared for at Cincinnati Children’s. In 2015, Free Throws for Kids bought the salad bar equipment itself.

“I know people love to show God’s love to 800 families,” Mark Johnston said, explaining the event’s success.

While Mark, 38, was attending Bowling Green State University, he organized a bike ride that raised money for Toledo Children’s Hospital.

“My heart got connected to it there,” said Mark, a salesman for a cabinet manufacturer.

“We love it,” said Fairfield firefighter Eric Burden, after taking some of his free throws while dressed in the heavy turnout pants that protect them while battling blazes. “This is our fourth or fifth year doing it.”

To learn more about the event, visit www.ftfk.org or call 513-305-9916.

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