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Raptors 905 Partnership with Holland Bloorview Bigger Than Basketball

Kelsea O'Brien /February 6, 2023

Breaking a world record is no easy feat. The logistics alone could be enough to make even the most confident of people second guess their abilities or give up before they even begin. But the children of Holland Bloorview, in all of their collective resilience, have been through tougher times in their short lives than many adults, and breaking a world record is what they are determined to do.

Monday, February 6th has been months in the making. From getting in contact with the Guinness Book of World Records to securing nearly three thousand red capes, Raptors 905 and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, in partnership with the PS43 Foundation Canada, have been busy ensuring that the event will go off without a hitch. Beyond the world record attempt, the relationships formed in the process may not be featured in any books, but will remain a core memory for players and patients alike.

Former WNBA star and the current Associate of Basketball and Franchise Operations for Raptors 905, Tammy Sutton-Brown, reminisces fondly on the community visits she was fortunate enough to be a part of during her playing days. “It’s one of those visits that I know I’ve done as a player, and it makes such a big impact, and I wanted our players to be able to experience that,” she says of an early December visit to the hospital. “A few of them have done hospital visits previously, but a lot of them are really good when it comes to kids and giving back. Honestly it was something that was natural, and I’m so happy that we did it.”

Spearheading the initiative with Sutton-Brown is Raptors 905 Manager of Team Operations and Culture, Javed Thadani. The former Manager of Fundraising and Sponsorship for Special Olympics Ontario, Thadani’s experience and passion for working with those affected by disabilities peppers the 905’s community-first approach to basketball. “Disabilities is an area that is important to us. I worked with the Special Olympics for about five or six years, and coming into this space, I wanted to make sure that we continued to give back.”

After arranging a December 13th visit to Holland Bloorview’s facilities, Thadani’s dedication to a cause so near to his heart extended to Raptors 905 staff and players, with many using the opportunity to reflect on the privileges they may not have recognized prior. “It means the world to me, honestly,” admits two-way player Jeff Dowtin Jr. “Being able to give back to the community, just seeing the kids, seeing them smile, seeing them laugh, it’s a joy for me just to know that we have people that look up to us. We’re more than just basketball players, we’re humans at the end of the day, and for us to go down there and spend quality time with them, and just see the guys have fun with the kids, interact with them, sign autographs, take pictures, it’s just a joy to be around, so I was grateful to get to do that.”

Raptors 905 head coach Eric Khoury, whose birthday occurred the very next day, reiterates Dowtin’s appreciation for the visit and the partnership, a gift more meaningful than any cake and candles. “It was awesome. The guys were so great with it. It’s so funny, there were hoops of all sizes because there were kids of all sizes, and it didn’t matter, guys were playing games with the kids on every hoop, and then you could see the competitive nature come out when they started playing against each other. Everybody was smiling; players, kids, staff, it was really fun to get there. We’re a team that is supported by the community, so any time that we can support the community in any stretch, even if it’s a small, tiny thing, that (feeling) is as good as it gets.”

Sutton-Brown, whose first visit with the rehabilitation centre occurred in early September before Raptors 905 had even began their season, spoke on the work that Holland Bloorview continues to do. “They are doing so many good things when it comes to not only children and disabilities, but also when it comes to research in that area.”

With a portion proceeds of tickets sold going directly to Holland Bloorview, Raptors 905 will be contributing to the hospital’s annual goal of $1 million raised to support children and youth with disabilities. To date, the Capes for Kids initiative which the 905 and attending fans will participate in, has raised over $4.3 million dollars in its seven year history.

Sutton-Brown’s experience as a player, coupled with the firsthand experience of Thadani and the tenacity of the children of Holland Bloorview encompasses all that Raptors 905 represent. Community, culture, and inclusion are long standing pillars of Raptors 905’s very foundation. “Disabilities, again, is something that is very important to me,” asserts Thadani. “Continuing to help create equitable programs for people with disabilities is something that I made sure to carry over to Raptors 905.”