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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Harlem Ambassadors' basketball, antics draw crowd

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lade Majic, coach of the Harlem Ambassadors, gives Le Mars Senior Patrol Officer Justin Daale a new look during Sunday's game between the Ambassadors and the local team, The Replacement Crew. The event raised money toward replacing playground equipment at all three Le Mars Community Schools elementaries.
In the game of the locals versus the Harlem Ambassadors basketball team -- the professionals won hands down.

But that didn't stop the crowd of about 425 people from cheering when one of the home team, The Replacement Crew, scored.

The locals and the Ambassadors battled Sunday afternoon in Carey Gymnasium at Le Mars Community High School to raise money for playground equipment.

Lade Majic, coach of the Harlem Ambassadors, pins a member of The Replacement Crew, the local team, during Sunday's game. Along with basketball, the event included wrestling, dancing, comedy and football.
The Le Mars Rotary Club and the LCS Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) partnered with the Harlem Ambassadors for the team's one-of-a-kind fundraiser.

All proceeds, approximately $3,500, will go toward replacing playground equipment at the three LCS elementary schools.

To the delight of the crowd Sunday, the Ambassadors shot baskets and made slam dunks over, around and under the local team.

Taylor Harpenau, center, gets her groove on with Ladi Majic, right, and other Harlem Ambassadors players during Sunday's fundraising event at LCHS. Harpenau received a prize and a chance to speak, and dance with the team after winning a race against several children in the audience.
After the game, Matt Washburn, of The Replacement Crew, shared his strategy for playing the Harlem basketball team.

"Stay out of their way," he said with a grin. "They were behind you and above you."

Washburn said he had a good time going head-to-head with the professionals.

he Harlem Ambassadors entertain the crowd with ball-handling tricks such as this one during Sunday's fundraising event.
"It's awesome to see players of that caliber," he said.

Another local team member, Le Mars Senior Patrol Officer Justin Daale said he, too, enjoyed the game against the Harlem Ambassadors.

"It was a fast-paced game," he said. "It was very interesting. They have a lot of talent."

Sunday's game wasn't all about basketball, there was also dancing, wrestling, good-natured teasing, comedy and even some football.

The Harlem Ambassadors also involved the audience in their antics with the team's coach, Lade Majic "the queen of show basketball" at the heart of the fun.

Before Sunday's event, Lade Majic said she and her five teammates were the "Red, White and Blue" unit, noting that the other unit, "Stars and Stripes" were touring elsewhere.

She said the Harlem Ambassadors partner with nonprofits such as the Le Mars groups for a variety of reasons, from raising funds to breaching racial gaps in communities.

"Sometimes we're here just to have fun," Lade Majic said. "It's a family-friendly show."

The African American team also brings a strong message with them focusing on youth saying no to drugs and the importance of obtaining an education, she said.

Growing up in New York and New Jersey, Lade Majic said she saw a lot of youth fall into drugs and lack of education, something she wanted to put a stop to.

"I am living testimony that you can do this," she said. "God gave me the formula."

Team members who play one full season with the Harlem Ambassadors and haven't graduated from college or aren't taking classes toward that goal are terminated, Lade Majic said.

"I don't want to be a hypocrite about my message," she said.

Since forming in 1998, the Harlem Ambassadors have shared their message through show basketball in 2,200 shows across 23 different countries.

Team members come from across the country including Michigan, Illinois, California and Florida, Lade Majic said.

"It's good, clean fun," she explained.

Melissa Tolzin, a LCS PTO member, said the Harlem Ambassadors' message was a good fit when it came to raising money for playground equipment for students.

"They have a great message; no drugs, work hard, get an education," Tolzin said.

She said the more than 400 people who attended Sunday's fundraiser nearly reached their goal of 500.

Tolzin explained that the proceeds from the fundraiser will be added to the PTO's goal of raising more than $100,000 to replace the playground equipment.

"It's going to be a big project for our school, but it's necessary," she said.

Twenty-one local men and women including teachers, businessmen and law enforcement officers volunteered to be members of The Replacement Crew.

Daale said he did it, "for the kids. It's a good cause."

Washburn held a similar view.

"I'm all for anything that helps support the kids," he said.

Becky Klohs, past president of the Le Mars Rotary Club, said she thought Sunday's fundraiser was "very successful."

She added that people who attended the fundraiser liked the way the Harlem Ambassadors involved the audience in their game.

"I think everyone enjoyed the crowd participation," Klohs said.

Tolzin said the PTO would like to bring the Harlem Ambassadors back to Le Mars in the future.

"We're hoping this can become an annual event," she said. "It's something cool the community can do with their families."

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