When the Super 16 round of The Basketball Tournament tips off this weekend on ESPN, the ALS community will be represented by a team of hoopsters fighting for a chance to move on to the quarterfinals and secure the $2 million prize, all while fighting to create a world without ALS. Team Challenge ALS will donate $250,000 to the fight against ALS, if it wins the tournament.
This is the story of how this Team Challenge ALS team came together in its current form, and how it came to wear the names of people who have been affected by ALS on their jerseys.
In May 2002, Michelle Rozzen was starting her third year at San Jose State University when her father, David Rozzen, an engineer for KABC 7 in Los Angeles, was diagnosed with bulbar onset ALS.
“My world came tumbling down,” Michelle said. “My Dad, who was one of my best friends and supporters, was basically given a death sentence.”
Michelle and the rest of the Rozzen family became involved with The ALS Association Golden West Chapter and dedicated themselves to raising awareness and funds in support of the ALS community.
Over the course of the next two years, they stood by David as the devastating disease robbed him of his speech, movement of his hands and feet, and his ability to breathe and eat.
In June 2004, David lost his long and difficult battle with ALS. The Rozzen family became even more committed to fuel the search for effective treatments and cures.
“I know that my dad had his tough days, but he chose to never give up,” Michelle said. “I did everything in my power to find a cure then, and still continue to this day. When I was a senior in college, I created the red ‘Never Give Up’ ALS Association wristband campaign. Since November 2004, over 1 million ‘Never Give Up’ wristbands have been sold worldwide, and my family has helped to raise over $6 million for ALS research to The ALS Associations around the country.”
Ten years later, in 2014, Sean Marshall was among the many thousands of people who showed support for the ALS community by doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. However, for Sean, it was personal. Pete Frates, Sean’s former roommate from Boston College, was one of the founders of the global grassroots movement.
Sean later decided that he wanted to do more to help the fight against ALS. After many years as a European basketball player, in 2017 he formed a team comprised of friends of Pete Frates and became their general manager in The Basketball Tournament (TBT), an annual tournament that pits 72 teams of amateur and former professional basketball players against each other.
The winning team of TBT shares a $2 million prize. If Team Challenge ALS wins the $2 million prize, the team has decided to donate $250,000 of the prize money to help aide the fight against ALS.
“The inspiration behind our team is Pete Frates,” Sean said. “Honoring him was our initial starting point—to do something special for Pete and his family. The deeper I got into this, and the more people I met that have been affected by ALS, it then became something bigger than just one person. We decided that it was our duty with the Team Challenge ALS name to represent the entire ALS community.”
Fast forward to last summer, when Sean connected with Michelle on Instagram prior to TBT. Once Michelle had learned about what this team and what the TBT was all about she sent him an email. It explained her direct relationship to ALS and she told Sean she wanted to be a part of Team Challenge ALS, and to help spread the word about the team and what they were doing for the ALS community!
Sean spoke to the other Boosters, the Frates’ family, and the coaches and received their approval for Michelle to serve as Booster for Team Challenge ALS. She was beyond honored and grateful for the opportunity to once again help Strike Out ALS! Michelle quickly set up the team’s website and designed “Team Challenge ALS Never Give Up" wristbands. They donate a portion of their proceeds to ALS research.
Team Challenge ALS is back this summer to try to win The Basketball Tournament after finishing last year as the TBT runner-up.
Last summer, every player on the team had “Frates” printed on the back of their jerseys. This year, the team's general manager Sean Marshall will wear “Frates” on his jersey, but each player will have a different name on the back of their jerseys to honor other people and their families who have been diagnosed or affected by ALS.
Michelle asked Team Challenge ALS athlete, Ivan Aska, a U.S. Virgin Islander-Puerto Rican, who just finished his sixth season as a professional European basketball player, to wear her dad’s name, David Rozzen. Seeing him wear his jersey brought tears to her eyes.
Michelle became emotional, but she is so honored and excited to watch Team Challenge ALS at The Basketball Tournament. She will be seated on the bench with the team as a proud Booster and team massage therapist.
Team Challenge ALS and Sons of Westwood will meet in Atlanta this Saturday, July 28 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN for the Super 16. The winner will advance to face either Gael Force or Eberlein Drive on Sunday, July 29 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The TBT semifinals and championship game will be held in Baltimore on Thursday, August 2 and Friday, August 3.
To support the team, you can order Team Challenge ALS merchandise in their honor.
For more information on Team Challenge ALS: http://thetournament.com/teams/team-challenge-als
Team Website: https://www.teamchallengeals3.com