Credit: Contributed

On Saturday, Aug. 21 and Sunday, Aug. 22, beginning at 12 p.m. on both days, the Gardiner Foundation will hold its 15th annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic at St. James Park, located on West 192nd Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be moved to Monsignor Scanlan High School at 915 Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx. Rapid COVID testing will be conducted on-site.

The Classic, founded and run by Dexter Gardiner, a notable New York City basketball figure who gained a large following in the 1980s and extending into the next decade playing in summer tournaments such as the Entertainers Basketball Classic at Rucker Park and the Gun Hill Tournament in the North Bronx, was conceived to honor his twin brother, Derrick Gardiner. It is regularly attended by current and former professional athletes, music artists, community activists and local elected officials to name some.

Derrick, also a popular playground player, was killed in a horrific car accident in July of 2006 on the Bronx River Parkway. The crash took the lives of six members of the Gardiner family. It led the deeply spiritual Dexter to dedicate his life in service of others. In the 15 years since Derrick’s transition, Dexter has evolved into an omnipresent and highly regarded member of the New York City philanthropic community through his Gardiner Foundation.

During a conversation in 2016, Dexter said to this writer regarding the Gardiner Foundation, “We want to show people a spirit of kindness, faith and hope. This is what my brother and all of my family members would want us to do to carry on their legacy and the legacy they hoped to establish.”

The foundation aids underprivileged families, providing them food and monetary assistance, grants college scholarships to high school students, sponsors turkey giveaways during Thanksgiving, and organizes children’s toy drives during the Christmas season. Additionally, it has been a prominent presence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, operating a food pantry among other initiatives.

With roots in the island of Jamaica, Dexter operates the foundation out of its base in the North Bronx, where he was raised and honed his hoop skills, leading him to SUNY-Canton. In the mid-’80s, Dexter became the nation’s leading junior college player in the school’s division. The symmetry of his eternal bond with Derrick is accentuated by the latter also leading the country in scoring for one season while attending Bronx Community College.

Dexter has used basketball as a vehicle to mentor numerous young men and women, teaching them the game but more importantly life skills. His efforts have helped spur a cadre of college players and high academic achievers, who have leveraged athletic and academic scholarships into college degrees and successful careers in various fields.