Woodlee's hoops tournament to raise gym funds

COVINGTON - Educators at Woodlee's Christian Academy want area residents to have a little fun and, at the same time, help raise money for the expansion of their school.

Since opening, the school has operated with no gymnasium and only a makeshift cafeteria. Often they have to rely on other locations for sports teams to practice and for largely attended award presentations and special events.

"It's extremely difficult to have all of these sports and PE programs and not have a gym," said Terri Knight, director of the private school on Ga. Highway 162 in Covington. "We're in desperate need for a gym."

She said students - about 200 in prekindergarten through the 11th grade - don't have a large space when they are participating in such sports as soccer, volleyball, track, basketball and cheerleading, and they often can't play when the weather is rainy or too cold.

"They need physical activity and knowledge about teamwork," Knight said.

Over the past two years, Woodlee's has collected about $37,000 for a building fund through various fundraisers, but soon they hope to increase that figure with an even larger event.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Hoops for a Cause will present the Celebrity Legend Basketball Tournament at the Samson Gymnasium at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, which is located at 6400 Woodrow Road in Lithonia. The game will include some NBA players and several former Harlem Globetrotters like Matthew "Showbiz" Jackson, whose son Myles attends Woodlee's. The event also will feature food from Chick-fil-A, Cosmo Joe's in Covington, All-Star Pizza and other vendors when doors open at 4 p.m.

Proceeds will benefit Woodlee's Christian Academy and its plans for a new gymnasium.

"It will allow us to grow our programs and take them to the next level," Knight said about a new gymnasium. "It can better the programs that we already have."

She is already working with companies to develop plans for the gym, which could cost as much as $2 million. She said she would like to include a commercial-grade kitchen and lunchroom and a stage area to be used for graduation, concerts and other special events programs.

"There's so much more that we could do, like family nights ... and offering breakfasts and suppers for parents and their students," Knight said. "We need to get families together more."

Currently, the school - a 22,000-square-foot building with 14 classrooms, a media center, a cafeteria and administrative offices - has a makeshift cafeteria that will fit only three or four classes at a time and caters in hot food.

Woodlee's has also outgrown its media center that is used for chapel services each week.

"Now that we're adding a senior class (next school year), we're running out of space in the building," Knight said.

After the gym project gets under way, she said she would like to build a sports complex with a football stadium, track and baseball field on part of its 26 acres of land.

"At this rate, it's going to take a while (to raise all of the money)," Knight said. "But we'll continue fundraising and will be diligent until we get it."

Those interested in attending the basketball event can purchase tickets online at www.woodlees.com until Friday or can purchase them at the door the day of the event. More information about the event is available on the school Web site or by calling the school at 770-788-2770.

Individuals and organizations also may donate money directly to the school, which is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Celebrity Legend Basketball Tournament featuring former Harlem Globetrotters and NBA players benefiting Woodlee's Christian Academy

· When: 6 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 4 p.m.)

· Where: Samson Gymnasium at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, 6400 Woodrow Road, Lithonia

· Tickets and more information: 770-788-2770 or www.woodlees.com