Innovation Fund Report: Cardinal Community Classic

Wesleyan students from a range of majors and interests – all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community – applied to the Student Innovation Fund.  The fund provided up to $750 for spring OR summer projects that prioritized:

  • Collaboration between student groups, faculty/staff, and/or community partners.
  • Investigation of the impact of our civic engagement efforts.
  • Sharing of ideas and learnings in civic engagement on campus and beyond.


Cardinal Community Classic was organized by Jordan Bonner ’19, JR Bascom ’18, Lina Marzouk ’19, Jordan Sears ’18, Eli Blair-May ’19, Kevin McDonald ’20, Chelsea Cantos ’20, Henry Martellier ’19, Remi French ’20, Austin Hutcherson ’21, Jordan James ’21, and Ernesto ‘Ness’ Vargas. Read their Innovation Fund Report below:


What were your goals for starting this innovation, and did you achieve them?

A collective of Wesleyan University students, Wesleyan alumni, Middletown residents, and local businesses organized and sponsored the 2nd annual Cardinal Community Classic (CCC). The Cardinal Community Classic is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament hosted at Wesleyan University. The 6 hour event took place on April 28, 2019 from 1PM to 6PM. Our primary goal is to raise money for the Middlesex Health Cancer Center to support individuals with cancer who are facing financial hardships in our local community. In the process, we also aim to provide an exciting space where Middletown residents and Wesleyan students can come together and have a great time.

As the volunteer organizers of this years event, our primary goal is to make the event bigger, better, and more accessible to the Middletown community. Our growth aim is: 64 teams, split up into two divisions; catering donated by at least 10 local restaurants; 500 people attending the event; 20 companies donating raffle prizes (e.g. Beats, St. John’s University, CBS Entertainment, and the NBA); raising and donating $15,000 to the Cancer Center.

We achieved most of these goals. Although we didn’t raise 15,000 dollars as we hoped, we raised more money than last year, had majority Middletown teams compete, and had more support from the Middletown community. Having a track record definitely helped with our endeavors. With the same commitment and dedication as last year, we were able to make the event a bigger success.


What are some things that you learned?

Having done this event two years in a row, we have definitely learned a lot about ourselves, event planning, but most important the relationship between the Wesleyan and Middletown community. For starters, we learned that it takes a lot to plan any event. You need help from trusted individuals who see your dream and want to help you fulfill it. No one can accomplish anything on their own and with the help of friends, team members and community leaders, we were able to pull of the Cardinal Community Classic for the second year in a row. Lastly, we learned that the relationship between the Wesleyan and Middletown communities needs to be improved. There is a lot of history that we didn’t know about which contributed to some of the negative feeling people may had. However, the Cardinal Community Classic served as a way to bring us back together and open up our gates and spaces to the greater Middletown community.


What were some challenges?

Throughout this event there were many challenges. First, the logistics aspect is something that we underestimated. While we had planned ahead for tables, chairs, food deliveries, signage and all other aspects for the day of the event, there were many little things that we had to hustle to get on the morning of. Moreover, we found it challenging to deal with the bracket as some teams didn’t show up. It was another piece we didn’t plan ahead for but had to deal with the day of the event.


How has your Wesleyan experience prepared you for this work?

Our Wesleyan experience prepared up for this event as it has consistently taught us to be well-rounded thinkers, workers and problem solvers. During this event, there was a lot that needed to get done that took creative thinking. Wesleyan taught us how to think about, solve and deal with complex problems, without getting flustered if we were unprepared at the start of the situation. Moreover, Wesleyan taught us how to be cooperative and productive team members. Organizing this event caused us to work together and collaboratively within our team, and being open to everyone’s ideas, perspectives and thoughts.


What advice would you give someone who might want to get involved in the greater Middletown community?

There are two main areas of advice we would someone wishing to be involved. First, do not think you have the most insightful perspective on the community and its needs. While our goal was to bridge the gap between Wesleyan and Middletown, many of the ideas on how to accomplish this came from Middletown community leaders. These leaders live, interact and are a part of the Middletown community everyday. To this end, they know Middletown much better than we do and are incredible resources that should be used.

Secondly, we would recommend bringing other Wesleyan students along with you. One of the most enjoyable parts about the Cardinal Community Classic was having 10+ Wesleyan students working together and getting involved. By doing this you can institute far more impactful change.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Lianne Yun ’18)