Hamilton cops, students square off on the hardwood to aid ailing teen
Saturday, May 19, 2007

HAMILTON --Yesterday's basketball game at Hamilton High School West was anything but an ordinary hoops contest. The star of the game arrived in an ambulance and half the players on the court traded guns and badges for sneakers and shorts.

And though they lost a squeaker to Hamilton High School's 2006 defending state champion basketball team, a team of township police officers weren't disappointed because the game raised more than $10,000 to help sick Hornet Sophomore Chris Somma.

Somma, 15, a former guard on the team who was diagnosed in 2005 with colon cancer, couldn't lace up his sneakers to play but he was on hand to cheer on his teammates.

"I know who my true friends are," Somma told more than 2,000 well-wishers at halftime of the game. "I'll be back soon. Thank you."

Two volunteers from Notting ham First Aid Squad picked up Somma by ambulance from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and brought him to the fundraiser, dubbed Hoops for Hope. A doctor and a nurse from the hospital volunteered to accompany Somma to the game.

The team of Hamilton's finest lost by only three points to the former state champs, but they had help from Christian Burns, the NCAA Division II National Player of the Year. Burns, a former Hamilton star, played for Philadelphia University for the past two seasons.

Officer Dave Barlow, school resource officer at Hamilton High School and one of the organizers of the event, said it was nice to be able to help Somma's family.

"We raised over $10,000, we had a good time and we had an excellent game," Barlow said. "He was so happy to be there it made everybody's day. The main thing is we raised a lot of money and Chris left with a smile on his face."

Somma has been battling cancer since his diagnosis in 2005 and police officers, led by Barlow, hoped to help his family.

The police were led by Chief James Collins who was joined by Detectives Bob Diszler and Len Gadsby, Sgts. Vince Thurman and Joe Mastropolo, and Officers Matt Bagley, Mike Everett, Quincy Hen dryx, Clarence Stockton, Ralph Fiasco and Barlow.

Several local businesses contributed to the cause, including JK Construction, Gres Paving and Whitehorse, DeCou and Rusling fire companies, Barlow said this week. In addition, spectators paid $2 or $4 to attend the game.

Further donations can be made to: Chris Somma Medical Fund, care of Principal Dave McWilliam, Hamilton High West, 2729 S. Clinton Ave., Hamilton, N.J. 08610

The money will go to help pay Somma's medical costs.