Later in the month before a traditional trip to Giant Center for the District 3 championships, the referee for 38 years informed his friend and colleague, Gordon Kauffman, he felt ill. By March 31, Swartz died.
Kauffman, an area basketball official like Swartz, wanted his friend to be remembered. So, he set out to start a basketball showcase that could benefit the scholarship fund Swartz originated in honor of his deceased wife. That showcase will take place Saturday as the inaugural Donnie Swartz Memorial Classic at York College's Charles Wolf Gymnasium.
The boys' and girls' basketball doubleheader begins at 6 p.m., starting with the Eastern York and Central York girls. West York and York Suburban, Swartz's alma mater, will follow with the boys' game.
"I think the first year we wanted to keep everything in the league, but the goal is to get it to marquee matchups," said Kauffman, a co-chairman for the classic's committee. "We're going to be leery of who we chose. We want to be cognizant of sportsmanship with the games."
After all, proceeds from Saturday's event will benefit the Gretchen Wolf Swartz Scholarship Fund. Tickets will cost $5 for adults and $2 for students and children.
Swartz began the fund in 2001, and each year it has awarded scholarships to a boy and girl associated with YAIAA basketball programs. Last year, each scholarship was $3,500. They increase to $5,000 this year, and Kauffman said the goal is to increase the yearly number of scholarships given to four.
The process of awarding scholarships starts with the York County chapter of basketball officials, who monitor basketball programs from seventh grade through the varsity level. They select one boys' and girls' program. Anyone associated with those two teams, whether it's a player, cheerleader or team manager, can then
Kauffman said all 24 past winners have been invited to attend Saturday's event. At least two have been confirmed to speak. Also planned is a tribute written by one of Swartz's long-time friends and the playing of the song "If You Can Only Imagine" while basketball officials circle the court.
Both games already were scheduled to take place before the classic. York Suburban, for example, loses a home game for the event -- but Trojans coach Dustin Boeckel does not seem to mind.
"Just from an environment perspective, playing at York College, I know they're looking forward to playing on a bigger stage," he said. "There should be a good crowd with a pretty good girls' game before us."