June 28, 1997 in Nation/World

Family Helps Put A Shine On Hoopfest It’s Time For Reunion, Volunteering, Competition

By The Spokesman-Review

The message on the T-shirt is a perfect fit for many of the 17,000-plus in Hoopfest today and Sunday.

“Basketball is life. The rest is just details.”

But to some, basketball is an excuse.

The rest is just a good time.

To Pat and Diane Sullivan and their children, this is both Christmas in June and a celebration of life.

The wonder of this event is how so much work can be so much fun.

Diane Sullivan is on Hoopfest’s board of directors. Her husband is one of a dozen court marshals who rein in some of the inevitable overexuberance.

Their four children are married, with court times.

The Sullivans’ youngest daughter, Colleen, was on the first Hoopfest board of directors in 1990. Two years ago, she left the board, and Spokane, with her husband, Nick Volk, to be closer to the University of Washington.

Colleen Volk was diagnosed with cancer.

“Unbeknownst to Colleen, after she was diagnosed we actually started to make sure we got together as a family,” Diane Sullivan said. “And since everybody wants to be in their own homes for Christmas, Hoopfest was the perfect time.”

And the perfect vehicle, with a little something for everybody. This year is special because Colleen is healthy again.

“She’s finished with her treatment,” her mother said. “She’s pregnant. She’s fabulous.”

With the cloud lifted, the Sullivans and their brood can relax, as much as the First Family of Hoopfest can relax.

The couple’s other daughter, Kathleen Parrish, has a big job in this, the country’s largest 3-on-3 street basketball tournament. She helped organize and distribute some 4,500 player packets.

“Two years ago, we were all together for the event and a month later she (Colleen) was diagnosed,” Parrish said. “We didn’t know that this unspoken thing, this time bomb, was ticking away.

“She was the one who got us all involved in Hoopfest. When everybody came back last year it was a bittersweet thing. This is a triumph. We don’t have to think about treatments and illness.”

The Sullivans look forward to this Hoopfest like no other.

“Walk the streets,” Diane Sullivan said. “Watch all the people showing off with their friends and families. I love being there, watching everybody play. It’s like a coming together of everything you’ve worked for all year.”

The Sullivans’ son, Kevin, plays on a family team with their three sons-in-law - Volk, Rich Kelly and Tom Parrish.

An attorney in San Mateo, Calif., Kelly plays rugby, a perfect conditioner for the bang-and-crash of street hoops. Seven of Kelly’s rugby mates are here playing on two other teams, Sullivan said.

Stay loose if you wind up in their bracket. When a loose ball is confronted by a half-dozen ruggers, a scrum could break out at any moment.

Homecoming at the Hoopfest Hotel

Moving into a downtown hotel on Hoopfest weekend is, for many families, a tradition as old as the event.

Steve and Karen Larson of Cheney have rented rooms to handle the overflow of their famfest. It takes some of the effort out of homecoming.

Although it won’t be so crowded at the Larsons this year, the tradition - actually, the Theisen tradition - lives on.

Karen Theisen Larson grew up in a family of six girls and four boys spread out over 16 years from the oldest brother to her youngest sister.

“One year they came in on a Thursday and we played basketball almost straight through to Saturday,” Larson said. “We left our game at the spaghetti feed on Friday night.”

“It’s a good reunion time for Karen’s family,” Steve said. “We always find time to sneak away. Sometimes we get out to Badger or Williams Lake.”

Karen’s sister, Calli Theisen Sanders, made the trip to Hoopfest from Birmingham, Ala., every June until this year, when she was hired as assistant athletic director at Montana State. Her husband Rick teams with Larson at Hoopfest, and with Ed Sinnott of Great Falls, Mont., who is married to Karen’s sister Mary.

Got it?

When everybody shows up it can be confusing.

“Two years ago, we had 29 of her family here,” Larson said. “We took six rooms at the Ridpath. When they’re all here it’s every man for himself.”

Larson knows “the basketball won’t be the most fun. It’s a great family time without it being a wedding or something. It’s three days of a lot of laughing.”

A family of friends

The promise of a good time brings former teammates back as well.

Steve Ranniger, 30, who set records as a football running back at University High School, then played basketball at the University of Oregon, reunites with college teammates Dave Blair, Greg Senior and Ian Craig. Blair, Senior and Ranniger live in the Portland area but Craig is up from Sacramento.

Although his team has a shot at winning its Action Sportswear open division bracket, Ranniger has “given up competitive basketball as far as leagues go.

“I like the competition, which is why we stay in the open division, but this is more social than athletic for me.

“We camp out with my parents, play golf on Friday and have a big barbecue on Saturday night with the family and the players,” he said.

Ranniger doesn’t mind if a good time gets in the way of a good game.

“Last year, we were out after the first day,” he said.

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had at Hoopfest.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

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