Wilton High School varsity basketball captain Matt Kronenberg is used to scoring 2-pointers as a star on the court, but right now he’s focused on collecting two of something else—sneakers. The rising senior is amassing pairs of new and used sneakers to bring on a goodwill trip to Cuba with an organization called Full Court Peace. He leaves this Saturday, July 23, and is hoping to bring as many pairs of sneakers with him as possible.
“Full Court Peace an organization that unites people of different ethnic backgrounds, races, and socio-economic status around basketball,” Kronenberg explains. Founded in 2009 by Mike Evans, the former varsity basketball coach for New Canaan High School, the service organization is focused on using basketball to bring local and global communities together as a means to foster education, improve health and welfare, and unite populations.
In past years, Full Court Peace has worked internationally with Protestant and Catholic youth in Belfast, Ireland; in Juarez, Mexico with youth affected by drug violence; and most recently in Havana, Cuba by organizing Basketball Ambassador Trips to build grassroots relationships between Cubans and Americans. There, FCP volunteers work with local Cubans to refurbish dilapidated basketball courts, and play together in FCP-sponsored tournaments and leagues.
Full Court Peace also works here at home in Fairfield County, uniting a racially and economically diverse array of boys and girls in grades 4-8 through youth basketball leagues and camps. Team basketball is utilized as a means of increasing communication, understanding and camaraderie among these youth, in an effort to help bridge the income and education gaps in a place where they are at their widest nationally.
Kronenberg learned about FCP through his classmate and friend, Lucas Reznikoff, who launched a Full Court Peace chapter at WHS this past year, with another WHS student, rising junior Liam Gany. High school FCP clubs raise money as well as partner with area community centers located in areas of blight. One of the things the WHS chapter hopes to organize is a free-throw competition fundraiser.
“Sports can link people and help them forget about the problems they have in general. The reason I joined this is because what better way to do something I love and help others,” Kronenberg says, who says Full Court Peace is open to anyone to join, not just members of the basketball team.
Kronenberg will be joined by several other teens from Wilton, some of whom are making repeat trips there. In all there will be 19 people on the trip, including Evans and other chaperones. He’s looking forward to both the service part of the trip as well as the chance to play a lot of basketball with people from a completely different part of the world, and perhaps improve his Spanish. “Sightseeing and embracing the culture there, definitely,” he adds. “It’s a fun opportunity, and it’s a new experience.”
Kronenberg has collected what looks to be approximately 30 pairs of sneakers, but says he’s still accepting donations of more pairs that any Wilton residents want to contribute, “No matter what condition they are.” Collection bins will be open at the WHS Field House on Thursday, July 21 from 9 a.m.-1 pm., while Kronenberg coaches a basketball camp. He will also pick up sneakers up until Friday afternoon from anyone who can’t make it to the high school. (Text him at 925.330.2304.)
Editor’s note: the article has been updated to include the name of the cofounder of WHS Full Court Peace Chapter.