Mahomet Madness helps hoopers, engages youngsters

MAHOMET — As soon as Megan Targett entered the high school field house doors, her 6-year-old, Camden Croft, darted off.

"He's been hyper since I picked him up," Targett joked. "Once we got here, he was gone."

The source of all that excitement? Friday's 13th annual Mahomet Madness fundraiser for the Mahomet-Seymour boys' basketball programs.

Well, that and all of those inflatables and basketball-related games set up in the field house, followed by M-S junior varsity and varsity basketball games on full display in the gym.

"We came last year and he loved it," Targett said.

No wonder. Her Middletown Prairie Elementary School student tries his hand in everything — "bitty ball, the rec league, everything he can," Targett said.

His favorite part?

"Friends, honestly," Targett said of the dozens of elementary school peers her child encountered.

"It's nice," she added. "It gets everyone together and lets the kids socialize."

Dozens of smiling faces in the field house agreed, including Billie Dallas of Mahomet, who stood in line for the giant inflatable slide many a time with 2-year-old son, Easton.

"The kids love it," she said.

The huge grin on Easton Dallas' face was proof enough.

"It (the slide) tickled my belly," he said while laughing.

Billie Dallas always brings her kids, including Emma (14), Ellie (12), Erin (11) and Easton (2), to the fundraiser.

"It's an awesome way to bring people together, and, obviously, it's for a good cause," she said. "It's an easy way to give some money to something everyone can enjoy."

Conceptualized by former boys' varsity basketball coach Chad Benedict, who is now M-S High School's assistant principal, the fundraiser raises thousands of dollars for both the junior high and high school's boys' basketball programs. Proceeds go toward team equipment, such as basketballs and jerseys, assistance with away-game meals and even scholarships.

"Basketball shoes are very expensive," explained Angela Carr, chairperson for Mahomet Madness. "If there's a boy who can't afford the team shoes, then they can apply for the scholarship and this money helps pay for that."

But the event also allows teams, like Toby Willard's junior high boys' basketball teams, the opportunity to compete on the road.

"It's a wonderful thing," Willard said. "Years ago when I got into this position, we didn't have such a thing, but now it provides camp money for kids. It provides for us to be able to get into tournaments we wouldn't normally be in. It's great to see."

The home crowd's support paid off dividends for Friday night's impressive 73-48 Bulldog win over Mount Zion. But even more impressed was M-S high school boys' varsity coach Ryan Bosch with the community's support.

"The willingness of community members to step forward and put something like that on is just inspiring," he said. "It makes you appreciate the community that you spend time in and you raise your kids in with folks like that around."

For Willard, who is in his final year coaching after 14 years at the helm, Mahomet Madness gets his crew buying in.

"The young kids, even from first and second and third grade all the way up, are there," Willard said. "What coach Benedict has done is build a community that really supports the basketball program, which really didn't happen before. The regionals that coach Benedict has won puts things into perspective. You get a lot more kids involved and that's huge."

Now playing on the big stage themselves, moments like the Mahomet Madness game for Bosch's varsity squad are bittersweet.

"It's full circle for them," Bosch said. "We're at a stage now where they remember attending when they were young. They were playing in all of those bounce houses. They were the ones sitting in the stands and watching the classes before them compete, and now they got to do it."

"It's a big deal," he added. "It gets them motivated. I was really proud of how they handled the Mahomet Madness prep."

Carr and her crew were still configuring the total amount raised at press time, but she was confident the tradition will continue.

"Events like this bring everyone together in one place in the winter when there's nothing to do outside and it exposes the younger kids to the boys' basketball program," she said.

Those efforts by no means go unnoticed by Bosch and Willard.

"A huge thank-you to everyone who came out and supported Bulldog basketball, and thank you to all of the volunteers who helped organize it and run it," Bosch said.

And though a Bulldog victory was the icing on the cake, nothing was sweeter for Bosch than seeing the support for the boys' basketball program.

"It feels like all of Mahomet is behind you," he said. "It's one of the things I really love about the community."

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