Gauchos score with annual fundraiser

Hundreds came back again this year to support their favorite charity basketball team: the Gauchos.

Teamwork Foundation, Inc. held its Sixth Annual gala event to benefit the New York Gauchos basketball program on Wednesday, September 15, at the Legends Suite Club at Yankee Stadium. About 220 people came to the event to enjoy the festivities and donate what they could to support the Gauchos, which has helped hundreds of inner-city children work towards a college education.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Rocky Bucano, vice president of Teamwork Foundation. “It was our first time in Yankee Stadium and it turned out to be a fantastic evening.”

This year’s event honored Ann Bronfman and Judith Chiara for their years supporting the teams and programs. Bronfman and Chiara, both members of the family that founded Seagram Company Ltd., have helped the organization keep the lights on at the 478 Gerard Avenue gymnasium during tough economic times, Bucano said.

“They are two fantastic women, and their charity has helped to keep us afloat,” he said.

Mark Jackson, a former NBA star and graduate of the Gauchos program, was also inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame Wednesday night. The former Knicks and Pacers point guard is one of 23 NBA players who played for the Gauchos’ Boston Shootout team, which was coached by NBA legend Tony Archibald in 1991.

Each year the association selects one graduate of the program to induct into its Hall of Fame. Other famous alumni from the program that have been inducted include Ed Pickney, Stephon Marbury, Taj Gibson and Dwayne “Peal” Washington.

The program has been around since 1967, when Argentinian immigrant Lou d’Almeida began organizing teams of youth to play for the Westside YMCA. Through sports, the group is aimed at motivating teens from ages five to 19 to stay in school and earn a college degree.

Since starting, more than 10,000 youngsters from around the city have gone through the program.

According to Bucano, Charlie Chiara, the current president of the group and son of Judith Chiara, started holding the fundraiser six years ago as a way to raise money for the 501-C3 not-for-profit organization.

“Back then the program’s financial support system was not as stable, so he quickly put together an annual gala with the hope that the event would draw enough sponsors and supporters to put the organization’s finances back in order,” he said. It did and the group has continued to hold the event each year since.

Every year the group’s goal is to raise $150,000, which is enough to keep the programs running for the 500 kids that attend each year, and the gymnasium operating.

Although the final tally had yet to be counted, Bucano said Wednesday’s event likely netted the group between $100,000 and $120,000.

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