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In September 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through the northeastern Caribbean. The deadly Category 5 storm hit Puerto Rico especially hard, causing billions of dollars in damage and numerous fatalities. After seeing and hearing about the damage, former NBA official Ed T. Rush and his wife, Trudy, knew they had to help.

Ed, who worked 32 seasons on the court, officiated 34 NBA Finals games and later served as the NBA director of officials from 1998-2003, refereed in Puerto Rico in the 1970s and knew several people who still lived there and experienced tremendous loss. It was that experience that laid the foundation for their current charity work, the Court Club Elite Foundation.

“We wanted to reach out to the members of the basketball community, whether it be individuals or teams or anyone in the basketball community that needed assistance,” Trudy, who currently oversees the foundation, said.

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The Rushes flew down to Isabella, Puerto Rico, after the hurricane and met with some people they knew on the island. They toured the area and saw the damage done to the schools and outdoor basketball courts. They met with the mayor and school superintendent and some of the students and inquired what it would take for them to be able to play basketball again.

“They didn’t even have basketballs,” Trudy said. “Through some of our resources, we sent three huge boxes of basketball equipment — nets, balls, cones for practicing — just all kinds of things they could use on outdoor courts. We specifically wanted to help that group of students.”

Today, a different crisis has consumed the foundation and the Rushes once again are front and center helping the basketball officiating community. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of officials out of work and unable to pay bills. While higher-level officials, for the most part, aren’t feeling the effects of the pandemic, a lot of younger officials and their families have jobs that have been put on hold and they have no way to make income.

“It was only a matter of time before these people needed financial assistance,” Trudy said. “Ed and I met with our board members, talked it over and decided we would put info out from our foundation that it be known that if anyone needed financial assistance, to contact me. It would be kept strictly confidential.”

The Rushes reached out to their members and asked them to donate if they could. The response was overwhelming as initially, they had more donations than requests. The outpouring from both members and non-members was immediate and incredible, according to Trudy.

To date, the foundation has helped pay over $10,000 in bills, most of which has gone to cover rent payments, and there will be more as time goes on.

“The longer this pandemic went on, the more apt we’d be to help,” Trudy said. “It wasn’t going to stop even if the season started on June 1st. There is still a need there. Luckily, we had enough donations to meet the requests.”

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Those donations have been overwhelming. According to Trudy, donations have ranged anywhere from $10 to a couple of thousand dollars, and those donations have come from the grassroots. The Rushes did not want to reach out to the NBA as those officials have been doing a lot of work and donating a lot already to other charitable organizations. While some NBA officials have contributed on their own without being asked, the majority of donations have come from officials at the rec-level, high school, JUCO and all division of college basketball. Some WNBA officials and teachers in the community have also stepped up for the cause.

“It means so much to us,” she said. “Sometimes a donation comes in and I won’t tell (Ed) who it is. It’s incredible. When we hear from the people, the e-mails we get in return are full of gratitude and thankfulness — gratitude to Court Club Elite.

She said they’ve even had donations from members they had previously helped out who have now returned the favor.

“They all believe in it and see what it is doing,” she said. “We are a group and a family.”

And the best part to her is 100% of the donations that come in go directly toward providing assistance, allowing them to help out even more people.

You can help by donating or for more information, e-mail trudy@courtclubelite.com.

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