KINGSTON — The outpouring of love and support for the family of Nathan Gray, the eight-year-old Wilkes-Barre boy who passed away earlier this month, continued Saturday night with a night of basketball designed to raise money for the family.
Good Shepherd Academy hosted the seventh and eight grade basketball teams from St. Nicholas St. Mary’s, the school where Nathan was a student, for a series of exhibition games with contests and raffle prizes mixed in.
The gym at Good Shepherd, normally decked out in the school’s blue and gold, was a sea of bright orange Saturday night in honor of Nathan, who passed away on Jan. 6 after a long and courageous battle with a rare form of kidney cancer.
Known throughout the area as “Nathan the Superhero,” Gray’s fight, detailed through his very own Facebook page, inspired countless individuals through the years, which was clear by the sheer size of the crowd inside the gym Saturday night.
“When you say Nathan’s name, everyone wants to be involved and pitch in,” said Dennis Isaacs, the head basketball coach and athletic director at St. Nicholas St. Mary’s.
“Our kids were on lockdown and weren’t playing basketball, so we decided to put on this event for Nathan … I couldn’t believe how much he went through, he was a true warrior.”
Nathan meant so much to the community that even schools one considered rivals like Good Shepherd and St. Nicholas St. Mary’s could come together to pay tribute.
“It used to be a bit of a rivalry between these two schools, it’s a lot friendlier now,” Isaacs said. “We all wanted to come together for Nathan and his family.”
The night’s festivities featured four games between the two schools, with the boys and girls team in both seventh and eighth grade taking the floor.
Most players wore orange undershirts beneath their jerseys, while others wore orange headbands and even orange shoes.
In between the action, a three-point competition among the players and a free throw shooting contest featuring two lucky members of the crowd were held. The proceeds for all of the raffles, the concessions and the price of admission will go to Nathan’s family to help offset funeral expenses.
In a fitting coincidence, one of the crowd members who was picked for the free throw contest? Nathan’s father, Jeff.
“This is unreal,” he said, surveying the sea of Nathan t-shirts. “I don’t even know what to say.”
When asked if he thought his son was helping him shoot straight, he laughed and said that he thought Nathan would take a different approach.
“He’d be laughing at all the shots I missed.”