STAMFORD, CONN. -- Stamford Peace Youth Foundation honored three Stamford residents at its first “Hoops, Books & Dreams” Gala. Herm Alswanger received the Community Legacy Award, Jalen Latta received the Student-Athlete Achievement Award, and Kyle O’Reilly received the Spirit Award.
Stamford Peace is a not-for-profit organization that uses the game of basketball – combined with academic support and informal mentoring – to positively influence young people,
Award-winning author, journalist, and educator Samuel G. Freedman gave the keynote address. More than 300 guests attended, including 30 students and families who participate in Stamford Peace’s Beyond Limits Academic Program and Peace Basketball, Stamford Mayor David Martin, and retired NBA player and shooting guard for the New York Knicks, John Starks.
Brian Kriftcher, Founder, President and Head Coach of Stamford Peace presented the Awards. He noted that Stamford Peace works with more than 1,000 young people each year. “The opportunities in front of this generation are more plentiful than ever,” Kriftcher said. “However, the risks and downsides from any missteps are equally large. If we truly believe that children are our future, we must arm them – all of them, regardless of economic circumstances, the color of their skin, their ethnic origin, or any special needs – with the knowledge, skills, values and experiences that can help them to sidestep the inevitable potholes in their way."
Alswanger received Stamford Peace’s Community Legacy Award for his lifelong leadership and distinguished career in education, in which he used the game of basketball to champion opportunities for young people in the community. Alswanger worked for 35 years at Stamford High School, where he was the boys' varsity basketball coach for more than 20 years and was the school’s department head of guidance.
Latta received the Student-Athlete Achievement Award for embodying the highest ideals of the Stamford Peace program in his dedicated and team-focused pursuit of excellence on and off the court. Latta, who played basketball with Stamford Peace continuously since its inception in 2008, is a freshman at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. He played in high school at St. Luke's.
O’Reilly received the Spirit Award for his courage, positive spirit, and leadership while serving as an assistant coach and team manager of Stamford Peace’s U16 Elite boys’ basketball team during the 2016 spring/summer season. O’Reilly was born with Nablus Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder. He is Stamford Peace’s first “MVP” under its pilot partnership with Team Up for 1, an organization headquartered in Baltimore, Md. that facilitates the participation of special needs children in local athletic programs.
The Gala dinner and silent auction were held at The Loading Dock in Stamford. In addition to donations, guests purchased items from a “giving tree,” such as laptop computers for students in Stamford Peace’s Beyond Limits Academic Program, and bid on items including autographed sports memorabilia, as well as tickets to the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and New York Yankees games.
The event netted nearly $100,000, which will be used to offset costs of Stamford Peace’s academic and athletic programs and scholarships.