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Harlem Ambassadors perform and play in Iowa City

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | OCTOBER 04, 2010 7:20 AM

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Dancing, dribbling, and donations were the theme of the Harlem Ambassadors’ performance to raise money for the United Action for Youth on Sunday evening.

The Ambassadors — described as “high-flying, hoop-defying, and world-renowned” — is a group whose goal is to help raise money for organizations around the country, and the members dominated the basketball court at West High, 2901 Melrose Ave.

Former Hawkeye basketball players, as well as local celebrities, donated their talents to the event by forming a team, the Legends, to take on the Harlem Ambassadors.

“[The game is] a chance for people to see some legends,” said Kate Moreland, the development director for United Action for Youth. This is the first year the organization has held a fundraiser such as this.

The Ambassadors won after taking time between quarters to entertain spectators.

“I was looking for something unique,” Moreland said. “[The Ambassadors’ program] fits our mission … and is great for youth and families.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary for United Action for Youth, an Iowa City organization that offers counseling and prevention programs to young people.

In 2008, the group had a budget of $1.7 million, supported by grants, donations, and fundraising.

During the last year, the group has helped more than 3,200 people through youth development and counseling programs, where the organization put Sunday’s funds.

Rakia Alexander, 15, said the group helps her stay on top of her school work.

“We all depend on each other,” Alexander said about her friends in the organization as she watched the Ambassadors.

Moreland said kids in the area often seek out the organization for counseling or just to keep busy.

Back on the court, while spectators sat in the bleachers, the Ambassadors back flipped, slam dunked, and led the crowd in a dance to “YMCA.”

Kay Dileo, a counselor at West High — sporting the No. 22 jersey — said she played for the Legends as an effort to reach out to the community.

Other participants included Margaret McCaffrey, the wife of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffrey, John Bacon, the principal of City High, and Ryan Bowen, a Hawkeye basketball star in the ’90s and a former NBA player.

Tickets for the game sold for $7 a student, $9 for an adult. Moreland said she expected the event to raise between $8,000 to $10,000, but a final figure wasn’t available Sunday evening.

Approximately 750 attended the event, she said.

Standing at 5-7, former University of Missouri basketball player Lade Majic said she enjoys her job as a Harlem Ambassador because she loves basketball, traveling, and helping people.

Majic, the head coach, Vice President of Basketball Operations, and lead player, encouraged students to stay in school and live a healthy lifestyle.

“Making a difference in the lives of young people is very important to me,” she said.

The Harlem squad has 249 games on this year’s schedule.


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