It is no mystery that high school students look forward to the weekend. It's a time to relax, put aside the week of hard work, and taste a little freedom from responsibility.
However, on the weekend of Jan. 7, responsibility was the mission for 40 basketball players from Ironwood Ridge High School.
At Reid Park on Saturday, players from all three levels of the basketball program participated in Beyond, an organization that commemorates the tragic Jan. 8 shooting and advocates for a stronger, more unified community.
"We are more than just a basketball team," said freshman coach Mark Schumaker. "After the shooting last January, this was a good way to integrate the players with the community. We want to promote exercise, mental awareness, and wellness management."
The coaches and players, along with the help of parents, ran a beanbag booth, a Twister booth, and a calorie-counting booth. The booths helped educate children and adults about health and fitness while incorporating some fun.
"The kids who came to the booths were really excited to see a group of teenagers helping out. They really enjoyed themselves," said Ironwood Ridge Senior Alec Sonderman.
The players and parents also made donations for the cause, giving away shoes and clothing, while the school donated Ironwood Ridge gear to include gym bags, shirts, and jackets.
"There are a lot of people out there that struggle. This was a way to show the players that from here on out, they have a chance to give back," said Schumaker. "They are a great group of kids, and this event helped show them how truly fortunate they are to have the lives they have."
The players, who dedicated part of their weekend to the event, also had a good time while giving back to the community.
"I've done other charity work before, but I really liked that this one was specifically for Tucson. I felt like everyone in Tucson was back together again," said Sonderman.
The Beyond organization was started by extended family members of Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed in the Jan. 8 shooting.
Since its initiation, the program has grown into a coalition of a number of Southern Arizona branches, including non-profits groups for children, environmental agencies, public health providers, and others.
Donations for the program can be made at www.beyond-tucson.org/.