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Tourney honors student

Sam Stryker | Sunday, April 10, 2011

Behind Keenan Hall Saturday afternoon, more than four dozen Keenan residents played basketball in memory of Sean Valero.

The inaugural Keenan Klassic, a two-on-two basketball tournament, shifted its focus from a South Bend charity to remembering Valero after the sophomore was found dead March 31.

Sophomore Ryan Dunbar helped found the event with classmates Gabe De Vela, Stephen Schwaner and Preston Scott and said the tournament was a great way to honor Valero. The sophomore was found dead March 31.

“It was great to come together and remember a friend and have a fun day of community, having fun and donating money for a good cause,” he said.

Dunbar said the tournament had 27 teams, raising $270. He said the funds would most likely go toward planting a tree with a rock and plaque near Keenan to remember Valero.

“The guys in Keenan wanted to have a memorial for Sean,” Dunbar said. “The tournament was a way to commemorate a friend and bring in some funds for the memorial.”

Basketball was the perfect way to honor Valero after an emotionally challenging week, Schwaner said.

“The tournament was great, we had great participation. It was a beautiful day and everyone had a great time,” he said. “It felt good to be able to commemorate Sean with a fun, upbeat event after the last week of grief and mourning.”

Keenan rector Fr. Dan Nolan said the event helped members of the residence hall heal emotionally.

“The tournament has been a way for the guys to honor Sean and work through their grief, and feel like they are accomplishing something,” he said.

Dunbar said he hopes the tournament becomes an annual tradition for Keenan Hall to raise money for a variety of causes. He said he and his friends were inspired to create the event with the recent addition of a basketball hoop to the residence hall.

“My roommates and I thought it would be a neat idea to put together a basketball tournament. We wanted to also use this as an opportunity to help out those who are less fortunate,” Dunbar said. “There are many charities out there, and they all need donations. We didn’t want to limit this tournament to donating money to the same charity every year because other charities are just as deserving.”

Dunbar said every year participants would have the opportunity to choose where funds raised through the event will go.

“We would provide a list of charities that we would want to receive our donations, and then we would basically leave it up to the guys who are giving the money to decide where it goes,” he said. “This also would lead to the possibility of donating to different charities every year as a way to spread the wealth.”

Dunbar said when residents were presented with charity options this year, the overwhelming response was to use the funds to commemorate Valero.

“To hear the guys say over and over that they wanted the tournament to donate to the memorial spoke volumes about the types of guys here at Notre Dame and the sense of community really present in the dorm life at Keenan,” he said.

Dunbar said he and the other co-founders of the Klassic kept the event within Keenan for the first year. He said future installments may feature other male dorms participating, or adding a co-ed tournament.

“We’re going to try and expand a little year by year, possibly getting some local sponsors down the road,” he said.

Scott said there was an amazing response from Keenan residents, which speaks positively to the future of the event.

“This year’s tournament had a great turnout, but I think it will only get better with time,” he said. “We had a lot of guys saying they wish they’d signed up this year and that they can’t wait until next year.”

In addition to participating in the tournament, Dunbar said Keenan residents supported their friends who played.

“Everyone who participated had a good time,” he said. “I know a lot of people who had rooms with a view of the court who even watched.”

Dunbar said the response to the event as both a charity fundraiser and a means of commemorating Valero has been incredible.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up and say it was neat to put on this tournament. I think it was just great with the tournament raising money for charity in general and to do a good deed to remember our friend Sean,” he said. “Both aspects of the tournament seemed to commemorate Sean.”