Annual Gold Medal basketball tournament celebrate it’s 72nd year helping the community
BY PENELOPE LITZE, Staff Writer
When March rolls around, many people’s attention is drawn to March Madness-but in Southeast Alaska, Gold Medal is the basketball tournament residents wait all year for. It offers “the best basketball ever, lots and lots of fun and cheering for their community and unbelievable visits with Southeast Alaska family and friends,” according to Lion Ted Burke.
The 72nd Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament is a Southeast community event run by the Juneau Lions Club that will be held March 18-24.
“Gold Medal is the premier event where communities come together and cheer for their hometown and also catch up with friends and relatives from across the Panhandle,” said Andrew Friske, a member of the Haines basketball team.
Teams representing 11 Southeast communities will gather to play games within four categorized, double-elimination brackets, according to Juneau Lions Gold Medal Basketball. Along with the scheduled basketball games, local vendor booths will also be held at Juneau Douglas High School.
Friske also said that given this years’ roster, the tournament could prove to include some of the greatest competition yet. “I don’t expect anything less than the best Southeast tourney competition of the year!” Friske said.
While play is competitive, the Lions Club also emphasizes the other positive principles the tournament was built on. “Basketball is one of those programs that the gentleman who recommended the Juneau Lions Club start the tournament, saw as a way to bring everyone together as a family to have fun, stay physically fit and encourage great competitive sportsmanship,” Lion Ted Burke said.
Burke has been a Lion for over 30 years, has served on numerous Tournament Committees and been a Tournament Co-Chair.
The International Association of Lions Clubs, or Lions Clubs International (LCI), was founded in 1917 as a way for members to better their communities and their world. In 1947, when the association was just 30 years old, the Juneau Lions Club started the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament. LCI has now operated for 100 years, faithfully honoring the motto: “WE SERVE.”
Gold Medal has plenty to offer the community, especially since it is also a Lions Club fundraiser. “From the profits we distribute scholarships and financial donations to local community, statewide programs and Lions projects,” Burke said.
University of Alaska Southeast students have even been directly impacted by the Lions Club service. In 2017, UAS students Hilda Mendenhall, Kaitlyn Stevens, Jacqueline Bennum, and Pierson Lam received scholarships.
“I come from a family who can’t financially support me going to college so receiving the scholarship has greatly benefited me as a first generation college student,” Jacqueline Bennum said. Bennum’s community participates annually in the tournament, and team members encouraged her to apply for the scholarship. “I want to thank those who have given me the scholarship as well. It is a great weight lifted off my shoulder when the Lord provides able givers who are willing to support my higher education financially,” she said.
Be sure to check out the competition at Juneau Douglas High School throughout the rest of the week. Today, games will start at 12:30 p.m. and continue into the evening. Don’t miss the championship games on Saturday. For more information, go to goldmedalbasketball.org and click on the Teams & Brackets or Game Schedule tab.