Grannies hooping to help local food bank

Granny Basketball athletes gathered at Trinity Lutheran School on Sunday, May 22 to raise money for a local food bank and school some local personalities in the process.

The hardwood is home to many Eastern Iowa athletes.

From the early morning pick-up games at the local YMCA to the potential pros balling out at the Prime Time Basketball League in North Liberty, the list of ballers is a long one.

On that list is a group of women ages 50 and older in a 23-team league known as Granny Basketball.

The league has teams in Iowa (13), Missouri (3), Kansas (2), Minnesota (2), Louisiana (1), Texas (1) and Virginia (1).

No matter the team, the 'grannies' play with the same goal -- raise awareness for the league and money for charity.

Each team selects a charity, raising donations for a cause while providing onlookers with a unique viewing experience.

"When you get our age," said Lola Reisner, a member of the Cedar Rapids Sizzlers, "sometimes people think you can't do this and you can't do that. Yes, we can."

Jane Suiter, the director of Granny Basketball, added that even though the athletes are 50 years or older, the league is "very competitive."

"You can do something physical, something athletic-wise, and also help out people in the community."

On Sunday, May 22, Granny Basketball gathered at Trinity Lutheran School to take on some local personalities.

The team's kept score, competing for bragging rights, but the athletes' focus was on raising money for the Linn Community Food Bank.

"There's a lot of people going hungry and a lot of the food banks are running low," said Reisner. "Hopefully we're going to have a lot of contributions to the food bank."

Charlotte Emerson, another athlete for the Sizzlers added that "every month of the year, they need food" and that "it's great to be able to be a part of" contributing to the cause.

Suiter also serves on the Linn County Food Bank Board of Directors. She said the community coming out to support the local organization would show they're committed to helping Cedar Rapidians in need.

"Our mission is to feed the hungry," said Suiter. "Last year, we served over 14,000 clients in Cedar Rapids... and we're on that same pace to serve over 14,000 this year also."

The Granny Basketball League has existed for more than 10 years, starting in 2005 as a fundraising endeavor with just four teams.

The games are played 6-on-6, with two guards, two forwards, and two middles on each team. The league honors rules from 1923, which only allows two dribbles per player per possession and does not allow the showing of skin with the exception of the elbow to the hand.

"We have a special rule of no running and no jumping," said Suiter. "For the younger people, it's hard [to follow]. For us older ones, as we get older, it's easier."

Every game has officials who decide what constitutes as running or jumping. The offense results in a turnover.

The athletes said they enjoy the camaraderie and the exercise through the basketball league.

For Reisner, playing is about proving to herself that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

"I never thought I was as old as I was," said Reisner. "I hear about all these old people climbing mountains or doing certain things, so why can't I do it too?"

The teams play a state tournament in Des Moines for a chance to compete in Nationals, which will be held in Nashville, Tennessee.

While playing against local celebrities sounds like a break from the grind of Granny Basketball, Emerson said she has no intentions of taking it easy.

"Of course we want a victory," said Emerson. "That's what the fun is going to be all about, showing them that grannies can still play."

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