RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J.– David Urbay of Ridgefield Park works a full-time job that he doesn't get paid for. But for him, that's OK – he does it to give back.
“I didn’t realize something like this was available until I was older and in high school,” said Urbay, who started the non-profit North Jersey Fire basketball organization for village kids in grades 3-12. “I’m doing something that I love and helping the kids.”
The 2009 Ridgefield Park graduate is even embracing his status as a role model.
“A lot of them look up to me because I played at Ridgefield Park High School and they want to do that too,” Urban said. “We have that basketball connection and it builds from there.”
The 3-year-old North Jersey Fire just wrapped up its spring season.
“I want to give the kids the advantage of competition earlier [in life],” Urbay said, “and keep them playing together through the years.”
The Fire play in tournaments across the state – including one in Atlantic City where the third and fourth grade team won a championship – as well as in New York and Harrisburg.
The eighth grade team won the Hoop Heaven Tournament in Ocean City, Maryland earlier this month.
“We try to expand the kids’ horizons and let them see the talent level in the surrounding areas,” said Urbay, who started the organization with friend, Lazaro Menendez.
Currently there are over 70 kids in the program, which is broken up into seven teams.
“I enjoy hanging out with the kids,” said Urbay, who coaches the third and fourth graders. “There’s no attitudes.”
And he enjoys watching the progress each player makers.
“Some kids can’t even catch the ball when they start and by the end of the year they’re shooting three-pointers,” Urbay added.
Menendez, who Urbay called his “right hand man,” recruits new players, coaches, and helps secure gym time. Menendez’s wife, Monica, handles the paperwork, insurance, and the ordering of jerseys.
Nico Velez serves as a head coach, recruiter and handles operations. Patty Haughton assists with paperwork and books hotel rooms for trips.
“We do it for the love of the game,” said Urbay, a Bergen Community College student.