For the 6th straight year, the Farmer’s Insurance Group hosted the “BIG Shootout” at every home game for both the Fairmont Girls’ and Boys’ basketball teams.
At the helm of the shootout is Fairmont alum and Farmer’s Insurance Agent, Jim Berlon. Berlon is a familiar face at all Firebird sporting events. Along with his full-time career, he is also the Vice President of the Fairmont Athletic Boosters and one of the Firebirds biggest supporters.
In order to create the challenge, Berlon reached out to Brian Donoher, Fairmont’s Athletic Director at the time. His goal was to create some type of halftime competition for the students and fans to participate in.
“At the time, there was nothing going on during halftime and it was pretty quiet. So, I approached Brian Donoher and we talked about doing some form of contest during halftime,” Berlon said. The first year, we did something called the $50,000 challenge.”
For the $50,000 challenge, fans and students purchased tickets to have one person’s name drawn at each home game. They would then shoot and attempt to make a series of shots, which included a layup, free throw, 3-pointer, and a half court shot in order to win $50,000.
“Since it was my first time doing something like this, I didn’t know what to expect,” Berlon said.
After the first year of the challenge, Berlon wanted the event to have a little more meaning. He said he wanted the challenge to be seen as a way of giving back to the community.
“I met with the Kettering Backpack Program and developed a working relationship with them,” Berlon said. “The money from the sponsors that I was able to get, along with the money collected from the 50/50 at every boys and girls varsity game would benefit the Kettering Backpack Program. All of the proceeds went directly to them.”
The Kettering Backpack Program is an organization designed to “Fight hunger one student at a time.” Every week, they provide students in need with healthy food and snacks such as fruit, vegetables, and easy microwavable meals.
Soon after the first year, the event name was changed to “Berlon Insurance Group Shootout” or the “BIG Shootout” for short. Berlon has used his business as a platform for raising money for Kettering students and the community as a whole. Since the BIG Shootout was created, over $20,000 has been raised for the Kettering Backpack Program.
As a child, Berlon and his family moved to Kettering from Cleveland, Ohio. He says his childhood is the biggest reason behind the shootout and for his involvement in the community and schools. While he is a familiar face, many do not know the full extent of his involvement and all that he does.
“I chose the KBP to work with because when I moved to Kettering when I was 7 years old, I was part of the reduced lunch plans. Remembering this has brought me back to this point to help give back,” Berlon said.
One of Berlon’s favorite parts about the shootout is finding the students to participate.
“You would be surprised how many are afraid to go out there and shoot. But the ones that do, embrace it and have fun,” Berlon said. “It is great having someone from the student section going up against someone from the pep band section.”
Berlon strives to keep the shootout entertaining and fun for all those in attendance at the Trent Arena. He is always contemplating new ideas and ways to make it memorable.
“I don’t want it to be dull,” Berlon said. “The downside is is that we only have 30 seconds to a minute to do it, so it has to be fast.”
The BIG Shootout has created many great memories for Berlon and the fans in attendance. This year brought one of the most memorable Shootouts for Berlon as The University of Dayton’s all-time leading scorer and star basketball player, Roosevelt Chapman, entered the Trent Arena for a varsity girls’ game. Stepdad to senior player Madison Connally-Banks, Chapman took the court to challenge another former UD player and Firebird parent, Brian Donoher.
“The excitement in the air was awesome as they both shot to a 5-5 tie,” Berlon said. “This was the first ever tie in the BIG Shootout.”
Berlon recalls another fond memory that happened last season. Senior Lindsay Breslin was injured pretty much the entire year with a torn ACL injury in her knee. “At the last home game, I had her come out and shoot against her dad. It gave her a chance to get on the floor one last time as a Firebird.”
As another basketball season comes to an end, Berlon reflects upon the challenge he created. Being in attendance at every home game is a big commitment and an opportunity that he is grateful for.
“To be able to do this has opened a lot of doors for me. I have become great friends with both coaching staffs and the athletic department,” Berlon said. “We have a lot of great people at this school and in our community.”
Contact Jim Berlon at: https://www.farmersagent.com/jberlon