Granite State Independent Living had barely completed the announcement of an April 21 wheelchair basketball tournament to raise both money and awareness when USI, an insurance company and one of the group's partners, pledged its commitment to entering a team.
That wasn't all they wanted to offer, though.
USI, which also partners with the Boston Celtics, asked if the group would like to have Dana Barros, a former Celtics and Boston College star, stop by.
GSIL even thought of a way to keep Barros busy.
"They offered on the spot, and of course the answer was yes," Leslie Aria, the development director at GSIL, said. "And then when we asked if he would referee, with our fingers crossed, the answer came back that yes, he would love to."
Barros will ref the final game during the all-day event at Pembroke Academy. The tournament will begin at 8 a.m., with the final contest slated for 3:30 p.m., and will feature 16 teams entered by local businesses. The entire event is free and open to the public.
"We had been looking for awhile for some kind of signature event that not only raises money but also has the other equally important component of raising awareness of who we are and what we do," Aria said. "When we hit on this idea, everyone's eyes widened right up."
The money raised through team entry fees will go toward GSIL's 23 programs, which are designed to "promote life with independence for people with disabilities and those experiencing the natural process of aging."
The idea for the event was born out of well-received staff games played at New Hampshire Technical Institute. The staff later held a game where members of its board competed against each other, and the resulting excitement opened the door for the tournament.
"Everyone said, what a great thing, let's do it again," Aria said. "And we thought, well, maybe this is how we take our message out."
There are several local entries, including teams from Associated Grocers, Sam's Club, TD Bank and a faculty squad from Pembroke Academy, and also groups from southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Each team includes eight players, with the game following a five-on-five format. Each player on each team was challenged to get 10 sponsorships of $10 each, and the response was overwhelming, Aria said. The tournament could raise as much as $13,000.
"What was surprising to me was the people that grabbed it right away, that just said, 'fabulous, yes, we're in,' " Aria said. "And it's all going to help people with disabilities live life as independently as they choose."
There is plenty of parking available at Pembroke Academy, and the day will feature a concession stand run by the Pembroke Academy varsity baseball team. The Pembroke girls' basketball team will also be volunteering to referee all of the games until Barros takes over in the finale.
"What we wanted to do was make this a community event, an experience for Pembroke Academy, so the kids got lots out of it," Aria said. "By getting that involvement they are going to have that awareness building opportunity."