Who Do You Play 4: Layups 4 Life Basketball Tournament

One of the (many) benefits of providing exclusive event entertainment for selective couples on their wedding day, is the couples themselves. I know what you're thinking...everyone says that they have amazing clients, and it's tough not to enjoy working with a couple on the most joyous occasion of their lives together. I assure you, I'm not in the "throwing around platitudes" game. I take proper measures to ensure that I'll enjoy working with a bride and groom-to-be. Much as our clients go through a consideration process when selecting our services, I too, look to ensure that visions and expectations are aligned. Ultimately, friendships are formed, and the post-wedding ride, or flight, home becomes bittersweet. Sure, we'll keep in touch, but I know that we won't be communicating to the extent that we did leading up to their big day. We will however, remain friends. Be it a catch-up dinner, a birthday call, or simply a congratulatory text when their favorite sports team notches a championship; the friendship that was formed can be credited to the "quality over quantity" approach and meticulous client selection-and-approval process. BUT, when Dan and Dana inquired about our wedding entertainment services, I didn't have to analyze their expectations or vision as thoroughly. This was because I had known Dan and Dana for quite some time; in part, thanks to the Layups 4 Life basketball tournament.

Dan Exter, along with his (now) wife, Dana, founded Layups 4 Life to help raise awareness and funding for cancer research and clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dan's personal journey as an Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia survivor is an inspirational one, to say the least. With the odds statistically against him, Dan was able to find a donor, beat cancer, and keep his then-girlfriend Dana, at her usual upbeat and optimistic self. Reflecting upon a promise that he made to himself while in treatment, as he was fortunate enough to receive treatment, and overcome the inflictions of cancer, he wanted to provide advocacy, and funding for clinical trials, and continued research. He also wanted to do it his way, and through an avenue that was close to his heart. Enter basketball. As a competitive athlete who had played basketball his entire life, sitting in a hospital bed, wondering if he'd ever feel the pebbles of a basketball on his fingertips or lace up his sneakers again was not how Dan wanted to spend his treatment time. Instead, he conceptualized "Layups 4 Life"; an all-inclusive, three-on-three basketball tournament. Guaranteed games, age-based bracketing, between game competitions, and exclusive sports memorabilia sourced from some of the world's finest auction houses culminates into essentially an entire day of basketball and sports nirvana.

An important truth that I learned through the years of our friendship is that neither Dan, nor Dana, are look-out-the-window dreamers that let out sighs and exclaim "one day"...they're doers. This was reiterated as I heard toast after toast at their wedding from Dana's parents, her sister, and Dan's brother, all highlighting that they never let Dan's cancer bring them down. They did their research, kept a positive attitude, and made plans for the future. On a side note, if you're a fellow wedding entertainer, or simply someone that enjoys wedding toasts, and want to play a game of "keep it together", I invite you to envision Dana's sister recalling how Dan, while in treatment, told her to "make sure your sister enjoys her summer and doesn't just waste it sitting here with me". I'm sure you're holding it together - must be the onions you were just chopping. Once cancer was in their rear-view, the (inevitable) husband and wife team set their sights on making Dan's "Layups 4 Life" dream a reality. With proper planning, patience, and unwavering tenacity, Layups 4 Life not only became a reality, but has been exceeding participation expectations, and donation goals, year after year. Although the marquee event continues to be the three-on-three basketball tournament, their non-profit organization has now developed various events throughout the year (I participate when I can and thanks to a recent event, I learned that spin class is no joke!), and Dan and Dana will continue to cultivate its growth. Dan and Dana are decisive (one of the many reasons that I enjoyed working with them for their wedding), and determined. When we partnered to provide entertainment for their wedding, an unforeseen difficulty had presented itself leading up to the big day. While some brides and grooms may have sulked or felt overwhelmed, Dan and Dana, a la Jay-Z in 2003, brushed the proverbial dirt off of their shoulders, and carried on. Why wouldn't they? Why would I expect anything less? They beat cancer. They may not be McFadden and Whitehead, but nothing truly will stop them. They've beaten cancer.

If you're inspired by Dan and Dana's journey, I encourage you to participate in the Layups 4 Life tournament, consider sponsorship, or simply donate to the cause, as funding assists in research, awareness, and clinical trials.
Can't participate? Donate here directly: Donate Now

It was an extreme honor to entertain their wedding guests, but it has been, and continues to be, a greater honor to call this power couple, my friends.   

-Artem