Gilroy has not been forgotten. That’s been evident by the continued support from the various Bay Area professional sports teams. Three weeks after the San Jose Sharks made an appearance in Gilroy to raise funds for the Gilroy Foundation—they raised $42,000 in fact—to help support the victims of the shooting at the Garlic Festival in July, members of the Golden State Warriors and Santa Cruz Warriors showed their support with a rally of support at Gilroy High and Christopher High on Sept. 20.
Players Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee—Anderson has been invited to compete for a roster spot at Warriors training camp which starts on Monday and Lee spent last season at Golden State and Santa Cruz, the Warriors D-League affiliate—along with the Golden State Breakers and the Flying Dubs led the support rallies, first in the morning on the campus of Christopher and in the afternoon at Gilroy. The Breakers are a unique group of entertainers in the realm of break-dancers and the Flying Dubs perform acrobatic dunks off trampolines.
Together, the aforementioned groups wowed the crowd at both schools while also providing some words of encouragement. Gilroy High junior E.J. Yufenyuy , who played on the Mustangs’ boys junior varsity and varsity basketball teams last year, said it meant a lot for the Warriors organization to show up and put on a great show.
“It means a lot and it’s good to know other people are thinking of what happened here and are mindful of what happened and wanted to give support,” he said. “The community is doing a lot better now because of things like this which have been happening around here and has helped us (in the healing process). It’s really inspiring to see them here.”
Yufenyuy was one of two Gilroy High students who were picked out from the crowd to throw a lob as part of one of the Flying Dubs segments in which they did an array of spectacular dunks, often performing flips and 180-degree turns in mid-air before dunking the basketball. Many of their dunks got the crowd off their feet in excitement with jaws dropped in disbelief.
“They were definitely the highlight,” Yufenyuy said. “I didn’t get nervous (lobbing the ball) because I’ve thrown passes like that before, so I was ready.”
The Warriors reached out to Heather Stewart, who works for the organization’s youth camps division and is in her second stint as the Christopher High girls basketball coach, asking what they could do to show the city of Gilroy support. Stewart said simply being in the community again would suffice, and out of that it was agreed a rally of support would be ideal.
As Stewart took the microphone during the rally at Gilroy High, she stressed the importance of joy, how it is a part of the Warriors culture and their hope was to bring joy to the Gilroy community. In addition to doing a rally of support at Christopher High in the morning and at Gilroy High in the afternoon, the Warriors donated 1800 pieces of gear (shorts/shirts/sweatshirts) for the schools to distribute as they like while also donating top of the line basketball shoes to be kept, donated or auctioned off.
“We really wanted to show the Gilroy community that the Warriors are here and we’re thinking about them,” said Zach Hill, who is the Warriors director of community relations. “It made a lot of sense to be at the schools because the Garlic Festival is one of the biggest fundraisers for the school’s athletic departments and a lot of the kids are volunteering and having that relationship with Heather made a lot of sense to come to both Gilroy and Christopher.”
Near the end of the rally, returning players from Gilroy High’s varsity and junior varsity teams were able to meet with Lee and Toscano-Anderson, with both players giving the students words of encouragement.
“It’s been great being able to speak to some of the kids, not even necessarily speaking to them but being a presence here,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I firmly believe it takes a village (to help a community heal), and for us to be a small component, a reinforcement of strength of telling them they’re not alone and to show support I think is pretty cool.”
Toscano-Anderson said he likes to share his story to kids and teens because his road to the Warriors has been filled with peaks and valleys, with plenty of potholes along the way.
“I hope they can look at me and know things can get done with hard work, perseverance, belief and faith,” he said.