“I know my sister is really enjoying this looking down from above.”
Adam Harrington, the Nets assistant coach and player development director, and The Jill E. Harrington Hanzalik Memorial Fund — JEHH Memorial Fund — hosted their Sneaker Soiree at Glen Ridge Country Club in New Jersey Wednesday to honor the legacy of his late sister, Jill Harrington Hazalik. It was a day filled with remembrance, smiles ... and making a difference.
“I have goosebumps thinking about it. I’m almost brought to tears just to see so many old family and friends and new family and friends coming together,” Harrington told NetsDaily. “Anytime you’re planning this, you just want to get to the finish line. We’re not necessarily dealing with one celebrity. We have several and everybody’s here to support so it’s going to be a really fun night.”
In the end, though, it all worked out with a big crowd of supporters...
The night featured an evening gala, cocktail hour, game events on the outdoor deck and a panel discussion with elite athletes — “Chase Your Dreams” — hosted by Ryan Ruocco of the YES Network.
There was a big display of support for Harrington and his family’s foundation from some familiar faces within the Nets family — Joe Harris, Blake Griffin, Steve Nash, Sean Marks, Tiago Splitter, assistant GMs Jeff Peterson and Andy Birdsong.
Also on hand was former Net Spencer Dinwiddie. He and Harrington share a close relationship dating back to when the Wizards guard arrived in Brooklyn in 2016. Dinwiddie might have had the longest commute of them all back to the tri-state area, driving four hours from Washington D.C. to support his former assistant head coach and the foundation event.
“I know he started the foundation behind his late sister and I’m coming to support. Adam was one of the first people that believed in me with the Nets and was my position coach for five years. We built a bond over that time and helped me out,” Dinwiddie told NetsDaily. “I got to come and support, especially since I’m only a four-hour drive down the road.”
Griffin and Nash relayed a similar message, explaining how Harrington’s character and the foundation’s mission is a true testament to the large turnout.
“It’s great. It’s not easy for everyone to get to. Some people drove hours and hours to get here, so it just shows how much support and love there is for Adam, Jill and the foundation. We’re all happy to be here,” Nash told NetsDaily.
“It’s indicative of who Adam is as a person and it’s also indicative of the Nets organization. When someone does something like this, it’s great when everyone shows up. I’m happy to be here. More than happy to be here,” Griffin told NetsDaily.
Griffin and Dinwiddie also had some fun talking to one of those who attended the event.
Harrington’s late sister was 33 years old when she died in 2010 from stage 4 colon cancer that had gone undiagnosed. Nash said knew Jill..
“I knew Jill. She was an amazing person and we lost her tragically. For Adam to continue to have a cause in her name is important for him, the family and everyone that knew her. The cause speaks for itself. It’s a sad thing but it’s also a beautiful thing as well,” Nash said.
The idea behind JEHH foundation’s mission stemmed from his sister’s passion to chase dreams and to create opportunities for others to achieve their dreams, said Harrington. It’s a foundation that hits home for Harris, whose mother is in remission from colon cancer.
“It’s obviously amazing that he does it. It’s unfortunate the reason why it all started but it also hits close to home with me. My mom is in remission right now but was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago. It’s amazing he does this,” Harris told NetsDaily. “We’re happy to support. A lot of guys are here. Blake is here. Steve is here. Spencer came up from D.C. so it says a lot about how we feel about Adam and how we support him, his family and his foundation.”
The Nets guard, like many of his teammates, have a “special” relationship with Harrington. Harris called Harrington a “close friend” and explained how all the players showing up to support the Nets assistant coach and director of player development is credit to his character.
“With Spencer coming up from D.C. and a lot of us coming in from the city, it just says a lot about we feel about him as a person. Sometimes with a coach in the NBA, you might not have necessarily the closest relationship. I would consider Adam a close friend. I see him all the time throughout the summer,” Harris said.
“He’s been out to where I grew up. He’s been out to a local basketball camp that I put on and work with these kids. You get close with him as a person and his family, so that’s what at the end of the day what it’s all about. That relationship that we have is special.”
Harrington couldn’t hold back a beaming smile when he spoke about the members of the Nets organization coming out and supporting him Wednesday night. They were joined by Jason Dufner, a PGA Champion who hosted a golf outing earlier in the day, Jason Campbell, a former NFL Quarterback, and Matt Rambo, a professional lacrosse player.
“It’s incredible. You add Jason Dufner who won a PGA Championship, Jason Campbell, Matt Rambo, one of the top lacrosse players in the world, and of course my Nets family,” Harrington said. “I’m excited to share it with them. They all really enjoyed it but it’s about bringing family together.”
Following the dinner, the foundation hosted a silent auction on a digital platform for attendees and anyone at home. The auction featured over 50 items including limited-edition sports memorabilia.
All proceeds will be going to rebuilding basketball courts in East Orange, NJ and Brooklyn this fall — a testament to the foundation’s mission of chasing dreams and two places Harrington calls home.
“We’re going on six years being here with working in Brooklyn and living in New Jersey. It’s become home. After five years, I’m really excited to do my first event here. The foundation has been around for 11 years but to do our first event in the tri-state area means a lot to me,” Harrington said.
“It’s become home. We drive these streets and go through the Oranges and all those things. With me and my family, we decided to make a difference right here. That was one location here and Brooklyn is home. We’re excited to do something in that area.”
“It’s good,” Nash said. “Kids have a safe and enticing place to play. Being active is important. Kids need as much opportunity to play, be young and be outside in a great environment. It’s going to be worthwhile for them.”
While Harrington and his family watched people walk through the doors to show their support and as the night progressed, he was thinking about his sister Jill. His message — “make a difference.
“I know my sister is really enjoying this looking down from above. The overall message is just making a difference in people’s lives,” Harrington said. “A lot of times, that’s just being there, smiling, attitude and that’s really what I tried to do with anyone I come across since she passed. It really impacted me so that would be the overall message is to make a difference.”
- Fundraiser honoring Nets assistant’s sister brings out Brooklyn stars past and present - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic