Francouer-Babcock Memorial Basketball Tourney turns 20 & volunteer effort is still as strong as ever
Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenGILFORD — A youth basketball tournament which was started as a tribute to Gilford Middle School student Aaron T. Francoeur, who died of leukemia in the summer of 1993 at the age of 13, marks its 20th anniversary when it opens today at Gilford Middle School.
During those 20 years the tourney has raised over $100,000 in scholarships for Gilford High School graduates, assisting over 100 students according to Tom Francoeur, Aaron's father, who says that the success of the tournament can be traced to the original idea that it should be both simple and fun.
''I'm amazed. You'd think that after five years it would have run its course and people would have lost their enthusiasm. But it hasn't. People keep coming back year after year and that's what's so rewarding for me. It's really become a part of the community,'' says Francoeur.
He says that some of the same people who were there for the first tournament, like Laconia High School athletic director Jim Chase, who has officiated games ever since 1994; Gilford High School nurse Meg Jenkins, former Parks and Recreation Director Sue King, Bob Gunther, long-time scorekeeper and former Selectman and former Gilford Rotary Club president Larry Routhier.
''Larry saves up his change all year and brings it in as a donation. Some years that's well over $200,'' says Francoeur, who marvels that many people who played in the tournament as youngsters return to help out in the tournament.
Among those who helped organize the first tournament was Jim Babcock, long-time guidance counselor at Laconia Middle School.
Babcock recalls that he was active in recreational league basketball in Gilford at that time and that he and others felt the need to do something to help the Francouer family get through the tragedy and thought that the tournament would be a good way to memorialize Aaron's love of basketball.
Little did he realize that some day his own son, Nathan, would be memorialized in the name of the same tournament.
''Nate played in the tournament all four years that he was in the rec league,'' says Babcock, who says that after his son was diagnosed with cancer while finishing high school in 2004 he continued to be active in the tournament and officiated games in 2005 while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
He died in September of 2005 and his name was added to the title of the tournament in 2006.
The five-day tournament features 12 teams in three brackets, with ages ranging from third to sixth grade and from the towns of Belmont, Gilford, Gilmanton, Laconia, Sanbornton and Tilton/Northfield..
It's the seventh tournament for Gilford's Parks and Recreation department Director Herb Greene, who says that as many as 70 volunteers, including 15 different referees, will be taking part this year.
''It's really a great tournament and it's popular because of it's philosophy, which focuses on sportsmanship and team play. There's the Hustle Award, which goes not to he best athlete but the player who gives 110 percent of themselves.''
He says that the all-tournament team is based on sportsmanship and that one player from each team is honored.
''There's a great atmosphere in the gym. The players are cheered for their effort and everyone really has a good time,'' says Greene.
''There are a lot of dedicated people who make this possible and that's quite a tribute to the community.'' says Greene.
CAPTION: slugged Francouer
Jim Babcock, Gilford Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene and Tom Francoeur have been working to put together the 20th annual Francouer-Babcock Memorial Basketball Tournament which opens today at Gilford Middle School. The tourney concludes on Sunday. Greene is holding a framed Gilford rec league jersey worn back in the early 90s by one of the two young men the tournament honors each year, Aaron Francouer. Aaron died of leukemia at age 13. The tournaments other namesake, Nathan Babock died of cancer soon after he graduated from Gilford High School. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)