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The Harlem Wizards will be back in the Cabrillo Event Center in a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastside. Review file photo

Basketball purists might rather watch a two-handed set shot than high-flying dunks and goofy theatrics, but the rest of us have plenty of reason to turn out to the Cabrillo Event Center on Sunday when the Harlem Wizards return to town for an afternoon of fun and fundraising.

Whether the visitors from Harlem or a group of locals who are more wizened than wizards ultimately emerge victorious, the afternoon will be a big win for kids at Cunha Intermediate School.

For months, Cabrillo Unified School District officials have warned of massive budget cuts necessary to keep Coastside schools in the black. While a successful parcel tax saved some of the more crucial programs and positions, it did not, in and of itself, end the financial woes. One of the least discussed cuts is now threatening one of the most important parts of the school experience: sports.

While the district will continue to provide some support for high school sports, Cabrillo officials say there is no money in the budget for Cunha sports. That is understandable given the financial realities, but it’s troublesome nonetheless.

Youth sports are among our most powerful ways to build community. When kids from all backgrounds play together, they grow together. They are less likely to hold racist views about one another and more likely to build understanding across socio-economic lines. They are less likely to use drugs and more likely to graduate from high school. They are less likely to skip class or drop out of school and more likely to learn the value of teamwork.

Young athletes learn to deal with success and failure, develop leadership potential, build self-esteem, and establish healthy eating and exercise habits that often last a lifetime. These healthy habits are particularly profound at a time when one in five American teenagers are obese — a rate that is three times worse than in the 1970s.

The importance of youth sports prompted former Major League Baseball player and Coastside resident Eric Byrnes and his wif, Tarah, to found the Let Them Play Foundation to fund micro grants for programs across the country that keep kids moving and having fun. But the Byrneses can’t do it by themselves.

Thankfully, the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastside and the Cougar Boosters support group affiliated with Half Moon Bay High School have stepped in to help. The first fundraiser is this week, when the Harlem Wizards return to town. The basketball ambassadors take the floor at the Cabrillo Event Center at 4 p.m. this Sunday following a free clinic for young players hosted by the Wizards themselves from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the gym. The proceeds will help defray costs associated with Cunha Cubs sports.

For details, visit bgccoastside.org.

We all score when we help Cunha sports to rebound. Get in the game this Sunday.

— Clay Lambert

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