by Rachel Johnson

At first glance, Lebanon Valley College senior Tito Valdez would not seem to have much free time. In addition to his studies, he serves in a number of leadership roles on Lebanon Valley’s campus, including President of Student Government, President of the Senior Class, President of the Lebanon Valley Educational Partnership, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, a Resident Assistant, a College Center Desk Supervisor, a student worker at the Student Affairs Office, and involvement with intramural basketball, the Pallas Society, and membership on the Diversity Action Committee.  This is in addition to his coursework and planning for his life after graduation.

Yet, Tito to found the time to organize the Hoops for Humanity basketball tournament, to benefit AFCA.  The tournament was held last Friday, February 21, at LVC’s Arnold Gymnasium.  Six teams played in the tournament, with their registration fees benefitting AFCA.   What moved Tito to be so generous with his time and talents?

Last fall, Tito took Professor Dale Erskine’s course on HIV/AIDS.  During one session, AFCA’s Executive Director, Tanya Weaver, spoke with the class about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa.  As a supplement to the classroom experience, students volunteered at AFCA’s warehouse in Lebanon, PA.  Tito was moved by the information he learned and the images he saw, and felt a call to action.

“Seeing the pictures of the kids warmed my heart and intensified my interest in being an advocate for AIDS awareness and prevention,” Tito said.  That impulse for engagement led Tito to organize Hoops for Humanity.

“I’ve played basketball since I was six years old, so I thought it would be very simple to tie two passions together. Basketball brings people together and it was a way for people to be involved with a great cause. I think that philanthropy among students is critical,” Tito said.  “One of my supervisors went to Scranton University and they have an event there similar to Relay for Life which benefits the American Cancer Society but instead of walking for hours on end, the students play basketball to benefit a certain charity.”

In addition to organizing the tournament, Tito was also a participant.  Yet, his highlight of the evening was more educational than athletic.  “My favorite part of the event was hearing Tanya Weaver speak at the beginning. It really made it clear to people why they were paying money to pay something they love to do – they were able to see where their money was going and the look on people’s faces was something I wish I could see again and again,” he said.

Tito has hopes that Hoops for Humanity can be an annual event and is looking for someone new to lead the event.  He will be graduating in May is currently in the process of applying to law school.  He is excited to see what his future holds, but knows of at least one thing that will remain constant – his advocacy for AIDS awareness and prevention.