The morning of May 12 was filled with tears and hope, as the Robby Atherton Memorial Basketball Courts at Mae Stecker Park were officially opened.
A gift to the city of Shelby Township by the Robby Atherton Foundation, the courts are an official dedication to Robby, who died Feb. 24, 2008. A 2004 graduate of Eisenhower High School, Robby was a star athlete, leading the Eagles basketball team to a regional championship and earning the coveted Macomb County Player of the Year award from The Macomb Daily along with all-state honors.
Adorned in the Eisenhower school colors of blue, white and silver, it's no coincidence that the two $60,000 courts were placed at Mae Stecker, a place where Robby spent much of his childhood.
"There were some weeks in junior high during the summer that we'd be here at the park for 5 or 6 days straight," said Joe Yestrepsky, Robby's longtime friend, who thought of the idea for the courts. "This just made sense for us to build."
The Robby Atherton Foundation was established after Robby's death to support local area youth along with families in need and organizations. The Foundation has given away many scholarships to graduating Eisenhower student athletes, as well as assisted in various community projects, including the move of the Hope Chapel from Mae Stecker Park to the City Hall grounds, along with the dedication of a small pavilion at the park.
"It's a tremendous gift from the Foundation and it's just another quality-of-life initiative that will really enhance our community," said Rick Stathakis, Shelby Township Supervisor. "Everyone who steps on the court now will always remember Robby Atherton."
The dedication was marked with an official ribbon cutting by Robby's father, Bryan, mother Terry and sister Megan, followed by the launch of dozens of blue and white balloons into the sky.
Though it looked it might rain at any minute during the morning, the ceremony turned out to be raindrop free as attendees took turns trying to score a basket in one of the brand new hoops.
"We got lucky today, we've really got our Guardian Angel watching down over us," said Yestrepsky.
For more on the Robby Atherton Foundation and to find out about upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit http://robbyathertonfoundation.org/.