By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – A sure sign of spring in Northborough is when Ellsworth-McAfee Park on Route 135 buzzes again with walkers, soccer teams, and pick-up basketball games. It is the love of basketball that sealed the friendship of Sam Piotrowski and Matt Galligan. They were instrumental in the organization of the 135 Spring Classic basketball tournament for the past few years. This year will be the sixth annual tournament and will honor Galligan, who lost his battle with brain cancer in November 2017 at age 20.
Algonquin Regional High School 2015 graduate and current college junior Piotrowski said meeting friends at the basketball courts at the park was a highlight of his high school experience. Since he lived closest to the park, he had the responsibility of checking the courts in the winter and reporting back to his basketball buddies if they were clear of snow.
“It was just a known fact that you go to the courts after school,” he said.
This year Piotrowski’s right hand man is missing.
“Matt was a selfless, kind person and always there,” said Piotrowski. “He was a hell of a shooter, too. The success and growth of the tournament wouldn’t have happened without him.”
Another thing that Piotrowski and Galligan had in common was their love of sneakers.
“Matt probably had 60 pairs and I had 35,” Piotrowski said. “We were the same size, so he would sell the ones he didn’t want. I still have a pair of his, which has much more meaning now.”
This year’s basketball tournament will be held Sunday, May 27, beginning at 10 a.m. Players can register for $20 at https://bit.ly/2rcbaVR. Typically, teams are 3-4 players each. Fundraising continues at https://www.gofundme.com/matthew-galligan-135-spring-classic. Any businesses interested in sponsoring the event can email [email protected]
Piotrowski encourages the community to come play or to watch. This year’s larger focus is on the fun of the event and to honor Galligan.
The goal of the tournament is to surpass proceeds of $5,000, which will benefit The Sister’s Wish. The nonprofit organization makes it possible to fulfill wishes of terminally and chronically ill young adults from the ages of 18-30 who reside in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The organization fulfilled Galligan’s dream to visit the Nike campus in Oregon with his father. They were also able to receive a tour of the University of Oregon and attend a football game.
“Matt left a positive mark on everyone he knew,” said Piotrowski. “He was there for so many so that they never had to fight life’s problems alone. This year, our 135 family will be coming together to honor him and raise money so that nobody has to fight alone.”
The first tournament in 2013 had 32 players. Last year there were 96 participants and proceeds benefited Coaching4Change, Inc., which combines sports and the classroom to help underprivileged youth graduate high school.
For information on the Sister’s Wish, view www.thesisterswish.org.