THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

For ABCD, Garden is a dream matchup

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / August 5, 2011

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It would not be a news bulletin to report that things have never been rougher for venerable antipoverty agency Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).

Even its great patron, Ted Kennedy, now residing in that Great Legislators’ Home in the Sky, could not have saved it from the wrath of the vengeful Tea Party folks and their associates, who have apparently decided that the burden of lifting America from this vaunted debt crisis will be placed on the middle class and the people in society with the least financial resources, i.e. the multiracial core constituency of ABCD, one of Boston’s truly great institutions.

Given that the government will be less help to ABCD than at any previous time in its more than 40-year history, the agency must turn to the private sector for aid more than ever before. For the past 14 years, the Red Sox have been an ABCD lifeline, as first John Harrington and now Larry Lucchino have turned hallowed Fenway Park over to ABCD on an annual basis for the popular Field of Dreams fund-raiser, a day when corporate-sponsored teams pay for the privilege of having their employees put together softball teams to play on the same diamond where the Red Sox perform.

The money raised from Field of Dreams has made life better for countless people served by ABCD, a far-reaching agency whose clients range from the unborn to the centenarians, touching every neighborhood in the city and including people of every racial and ethnic strain including, yes, you suspicious Republican Caucasians. ABCD is something for every Greater Bostonian to be proud of.

Enter Doc Rivers and the TD Garden.

The Celtics coach has been impressed by and supportive of ABCD for several years, after making the acquaintance of Bob Elias, ABCD’s Director of Government and Industrial Relations, and the agency’s most fervent baseball and basketball fan.

So it comes as no great surprise that when approached to see whether he would be interested in taking part in an event modeled on Field of Dreams at the place where he works, Rivers couldn’t say “yes’’ fast enough. Thus, on Thursday, Sept. 15, we will have the first annual Hoop Dreams, in which corporate participants will have the thrill of playing some serious halfcourt bragging-rights basketball on the famed parquet floor.

Now, wishin’ and hopin’ is one thing, but having the dream executed is another. In other words, Rivers and ABCD are grateful to TD Garden president John Wentzell for giving the OK.

“I’ve been interested in ABCD for some time because of all the different programs they have, especially the summer jobs program [SummerWorks],’’ explains Rivers. “That one really got my attention, because it’s a chance for inner-city kids to earn a few wages.

“I’m especially interested now because of all the funding cutbacks that will be coming, although I first got interested before all this happened.’’

As for the basketball attraction, Doc thinks it’s a no-brainer.

“What’s great about Boston is the fact that we have these special places like Fenway Park and Boston Garden that are world famous and have such history,’’ Rivers points out. “I thought, ‘Let’s give people a chance to play on the parquet.’ I’ll be there, some Celtics legends will be there, and everyone will have a great time.’’

Doc is quite capable of putting himself in the place of a hoop-crazed fan.

“This is a great opportunity,’’ he says. “I grew up in Chicago and I certainly never had a chance to play in Chicago Stadium.’’

Time is getting short. Sept. 15 is not that far away. This would be a great time for a local corporation to sign itself up, both as a reward for its employees and as a true service to the community.

“Having people such as the Red Sox, and now Doc Rivers and the Celtics, supporting us in such a public way represents a great vote of confidence for us as an organization,’’ says John Drew, the ABCD President and CEO, who has the unenviable and gargantuan task of succeeding the legendary Bob Coard, who founded the agency and was its public face for more than four decades.

“The money is so important, since our budget has been adversely affected by what’s going on in Washington. It means so much to us when a Doc Rivers lets people know that we are an agency worth supporting.’’

Under ABCD’s huge umbrella reside everything from Head Start to various services for the elderly. There are numerous educational programs, including the Urban College, which allows hard-working people to secure a college degree. The list of services would stretch from here to the Canadian border.

ABCD is, in fact, the model of its kind, the antipoverty organization with the longest and best track record and one that sets the example for all others nationwide.

There are openings remaining, so now is the time for a civic-minded company to sign up. Contact Alecia Carey at 617-348-6244 or e-mail her at alecia.carey@BostonABCD.org.

“It’s pretty simple,’’ says Rivers. “It’s a two-for-one deal. Obviously, you fulfill a dream by playing on the Boston Garden floor. And you support a very worthy cause. Two for one; that’s the way I look at it.’’

Anyone will be welcome to drop by (preferably with a check). It may be the only basketball you’ll see on that parquet floor for a long time.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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