Basketball tournament scores books for patients at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Our major responsibility is to set the table for the future," said Mark Tucker. "And the easiest way for us to do it as a group of guys playing basketball together is to support an initiative like Reach Out and Read."

The nationwide effort has a local branch dedicated to benefitting St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in North Philadelphia.

In the last 20 years, the community has collected and donated more than half a million books to children in need. And since 2014, they have centered their fundraising efforts around a massive basketball tournament to benefit patients at St. Christopher's.

Two of the hospital's pediatricians, Dr. Hans Kersten and Dr. Dan Taylor, share more than a passion for children's health. They both happen to be lifelong basketball fans and players.

"A lot of families have a lot of different issues that they're dealing with," said Dr. Kersten. "And so, this is just one small way that we can help them."

The event took place at the Germantown Friends School, where basketball fans have gathered for more than three decades to play three days a week in a group known as, "The Run." With multiple sponsors and more than 100 players, the tournament nets thousands of books for children in need.

"We're all in this because we support the most vulnerable children in Philadelphia," said Dr. Taylor. "And that's what the reading program is about. Not just books, but understanding the brain science behind early childhood."

Organizers are hoping these books can get in the hands of children aged 5 and below to become a formative part of their brain development. That way, they can start kindergarten with a network of community support and a pathway to future success.

It's a success story that Mark Tucker embodies.

"I grew up here in Germantown and I would sit on the front porch and I would read over and over again," he said. "I loved it. I had trouble though. I stuttered. And by reading, it helped foster good, strong skills."

Now, the 63-year-old is still playing basketball and encouraging the youth to get educated.

"In essence, it's what we should be providing for our kids," he said. "The opportunity and the love for reading."

The 8th Annual Reach Out and Read Basketball Tournament hopes to raise $200,000 to provide books and support ambulatory pediatrics, school programs, and more to children. To learn more or make a donation, visit their website.

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