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Highland Park’s pregame ceremony brings cheers and tears as veteran Shawn Hoffmann and his family are honored

Dramatics are often reserved for the ultimate moments of basketball games, but on Jan. 26 at Highland Park High School, emotions peaked before tipoff.

Prior to a conference matchup between Highland Park and Maine West, the Giants community honored decorated Army veteran Shawn Hoffmann and his family with the presentation of greater than $6,000 in money and gifts.

The ceremony capped HPHS’s participation within the Free Throws for Heroes program, for which the varsity’s boys basketball players raised funds by encouraging pledges based on what number of free throws they each could make out of fifty. The town’s junior high players also contributed to the $6,000 fund.

“I’m incredibly happy with our guys and proud to have been capable of in some small approach to support such a crucial and worthy cause and recipient,” said Ross Deutsch, HPHS’s varsity basketball coach, who kickstarted the festivities on Jan. 26 by telling the impressive senior-night crowd concerning the program and about Hoffmann.

Highland Park basketball players hand Lego sets and iPads to the Hoffmann children.

Hoffmann and his 4 children joined Deutsch at center court and showed various types of joy and surprise as Deutsch announced the gifts: several Lego sets for Hoffmann’s Lego-loving daughter; 4 Apple iPads — one for every child; two $250 gift cards to Jewel food market; and a check for $5,000.

The Hoffmanns remained on the court as the gang collaborated for a lengthy ovation, and an emotional Shawn Hoffmann waved, expressing his gratitude before striding back to the bleachers.

“I’m extremely grateful for all the things that’s happening,” he said following the ceremony. “I don’t expect anything as much as that. I’m just lost for words.”

Shawn Hoffmann

A Niles North Highschool graduate, Hoffmann actively served within the U.S. Army as a mechanic for nearly 11 years. His service brought him overseas for 2 tours within the early 2000s.

More recently life had presented challenges to Hoffmann and his family. Following a divorce, the one father of 4 was working to make ends meet. As a past American Legion commander, Hoffmann spent loads of time helping his fellow military veterans. He thought it best to take his own advice and get some help.

“I at all times tried to let other veterans know that resources are on the market,” he said. “We just must dig deep and let go of a few of that pride to see what’s on the market and get some help. It was just my turn.”

Hoffmann said the Veterans Assistance Commission helped house his family while they looked for a brand new residence. Because he did seek help, Hoffmann eventually was attached with Free Throws for Heroes.

The Hoffmanns recently found a three-bedroom home on the Great Lakes Naval Base. Going from a five-bedroom home to a three-bedroom has presented more challenges. Hoffmann, as an example, sleeps within the front room to offer his children more room, and with the contributions from HPHS basketball, he said he’ll buy desks and chairs to get more work, and homework, done at home, in addition to a grill and “stuff the youngsters needs — and so they’re going to want clothes.”

The Program

Mitch Saltzstein, of Northbrook, founded The Charity Stripe in 2009 to support individuals facing hardships following, amongst other things, military service. The organization organizes and oversees group fundraising activities, reminiscent of Free Throws for Heroes.

Highland Park High School basketball has been an everyday participant in this system, which specifically advantages military veterans and their families.

Deutsch, the Giants head coach, said charity is an important a part of HPHS basketball, something he picked up from his years coaching under Paul Harris, now the varsity’s athletic director, and continues preaching to today.

“We’re continuously telling them that we’re a part of something greater within the Highland Park basketball community,” he said. “I feel this teaches our guys the importance of giving back and being a part of something greater than basketball.”

When Deutsch read details of this 12 months’s recipient, Shawn Hoffmann, to his players, he cried. On the time, the players were sitting in desks following a basketball game, and within the letter Deutsch was reading, Hoffmann wrote that he desired to purchase a desk so he could work from to assist look after his children.

Deutsch said his players were enthused at the chance and that trickled right down to the lower levels of HP basketball.

“We take some things without any consideration like that,” Deutsch said. “The incontrovertible fact that our efforts, together with our feeder players, were enough to buy 4 iPads, lego sets, gift cards and the remaining funds — I’m really honored to have the option to in some small way help a deserving needy father and family.”

“We’re very, very lucky that we’ve got so many supportive parents,” he added.

Mimicking its start, the evening led to home-crowd cheers with the Giants defeating the Warriors.

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