"A lot of these kids have nothing" said Cops vs. Robbers organizer, Marcus Woods. Woods started his organization when he was released from prison in 2008. He was staying in a half-way house when it lost it's government grant and threatened to close its doors.
"I came up with this fundraiser where people can watch us ex-cons play against cops," said Woods. "I thought it would be a good way to raise money and a good way to show people that we were more than ex-convicts. We want to give back to our community. We have learned lessons and are trying to be good people."
The game raised enough money for the house to stay open. Since then, Woods held the basketball game, raising money and collecting items for kids.
The Cops vs. Robbers charity game will be held Dec. 21 at 4 p.m. at the Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center in Reno. Admission to the game is $3 per person with children under 17 getting in for free. There will be free food and prizes.
This year, the "Robbers" will be playing against the Sparks SWAT department. After the game, the "robbers" and police officers will hand out presents to the children.
"We're gotten a lot of support from the police, especially their administrative departments," said Woods. "Everybody's been coming together."
Woods considers the basketball game not just a charity event but a moment where a child can get their self-esteem boosted.
"During the half, kids come up to make baskets," said Woods. "Everyone cheers them on. When they make a basket, everyone just goes wild."
In its five years of existence, the Robbers vs. Cops drive has received toys and gifts for over 1,000 local kids, as well as raise money for causes such as breast cancer and rehabilitation support. Woods also hosts another charity basketball game during the summer, just in time for the start of school, collecting backpacks and school supplies for those who need it most.
Last year, the toy drive collected about $7,000 worth of toys. However, the kids hoping for gifts doubled in size from the previous year. The organization has an estimated 400 kids in need of Christmas gifts.
"We have an overwhelming number of needy children this year," said Woods. "We need gifts for kids all ages, from infants and babies to teens that are 15 and 16 years old."
Woods is also looking for sponsors to help cover costs like the gym rental.
"It would be great to get the entire community's support on this," said Woods. "Unlike other toy drives around town, the toys go directly to the kids. There is no middle man. These kids could be in your class or be your neighbor."
For those wanting to donate items, toys must be new and unwrapped. All donations are tax deducible.
"There are a lot of drop-off places around town where you can drop everything off but it's easy if you just call me," said Woods. "I can meet at whatever place, at whatever time. I can travel anywhere."
Woods is confident that the Truckee Meadows community will come through with the gift donations.
"People are so giving," said Woods. "They want to see smiles on the kids' faces. The smiles are the reason that I do this. I was in foster care growing up. There were some Christmases where I woke up and there weren't any presents under my tree. Kids should wake up to presents. I do this because I know what it feels like to have nothing.
For more information about the Cops vs. Robbers basketball tournament, call Marcus Woods at (775) 378-8792.