The Gardiner Foundation will hold its 18th Annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic at St. James Park in the Bronx this weekend Credit: Gardiner Foundation photo

This weekend, the Gardiner Foundation will hold its 18th Annual Gardiner Memorial Basketball Classic at St. James Park, located on West 192nd Street and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.

Over the past three decades, the tournament has grown into one of the most well-attended and impactful events on the New York City summer basketball landscape because of its social-emotional and educational objectives for youth. School supplies, bookbags, five college scholarships, the raffling of iPads, and the offering of free food will accentuate the two-day gathering. The basketball games will begin at noon Saturday and Sunday.

The Classic is founded and operated by Dexter Gardiner, who showcased his skills at SUNY-Canton and was a fixture in the 1980s and 90s at tournaments, such as the Entertainers Basketball Classic at Rucker Park and the Gun Hill Tournament in the Northeast Bronx, earning a reputation as a prolific backcourt scorer.

Similarly, a noted player, his twin brother Derrick was tragically killed in a horrific car accident in July of 2006 on the Bronx River Parkway. The crash claimed the lives of six members of the Gardiner family. Dexter, of Jamaican heritage, was subsequently compelled by his Christian faith to commit to a life of service, establishing the Gardiner Foundation as an attestive part of his legacy.

“Uplifting others and creating pathways and opportunities for the youth is deep in my spirit,” Gardiner said to this writer early this month. “When I see some of the kids who came through our foundation and witnessing the success they are having now as good students, having strong family values, and making a positive difference in their communities, it reinforces our mission.”

Based in the Northeast section of the Bronx, the foundation aids underprivileged families, providing them with 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 holiday, 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 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.

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