William Gwathmey’s friends described him as a competitive athlete who beat them almost every time in basketball games. But his friends also said he was a “true sportsman” who never rubbed in his wins and always finished games with a high five.
To remember the junior, who died earlier this semester, Gwathmey’s family and four members of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, started a foundation to teach basketball skills to low-income students in D.C. More than 160 people have already signed up to play in a charity basketball tournament organized by the foundation this weekend.
In two weeks, the William Gaines Gwathmey Foundation’s GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $1,600 toward a $6,000 goal, which will be used to buy basketball equipment for elementary and middle schools.
“If Willie knew we were doing this, he would smile and say it’s only right that we’re doing it through basketball,” junior Louis Ruggiero said. “It’s time we remember him with a smile, not a frown.”
Volunteers will aim to teach children basic skills as well as the importance of sportsmanship, friendship, family and schoolwork during biweekly visits.
“Those were the things that were most important to Will,” said Ruggiero, who met Gwathmey during freshmen orientation. “We wanted to do it for Will, we wanted to it for us and we wanted to do it for the kids.”
In September, Gwathmey was pronounced dead at GW Hospital after he was found unconscious in an off-campus apartment. The D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not yet released a cause of death.
Founders have also reached out to Gwathmey’s high school, Collegiate School in New York City, for support. Gwathmey was very involved with his high school’s basketball team and spent time during breaks from college helping the coaches and younger players, Ruggiero said.
The foundation will also look to connect with local nonprofits like the United Way of the National Capital Area or the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington. In the future, children in the program could come to events on campus to show donors how their money has helped, junior Cory Silverstein said.
“I wanted to remember him for all of the positive aspects of his life that he imparted on us every day,” Silverstein said. “I felt like this was a way for us to get closer to him.”