Airman from Wright Patterson Air Force Base will be in attendance at First Four

DAYTON — When the NCAA Tournament begins in Dayton next week, thousands of airman from Wright Patterson Air Force Base will be in the stands at the University of Dayton Arena.

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News Center 7′s John Bedell says the program helps gets those service members in the door without having to pay for their own ticket.

The First Four will kick off the NCAA Tournament at the UD Arena on March 14 and one of the sections will be filled with our service members and their families.

Their tickets are donated as a thank you for their service to our country and community.

Bedell says when the First Four comes to Dayton, people like Sarah Spees, The Big Hoopla Committee Director, is one of people working behind the scenes to help make it happen.

The Big Hoopla Committee supports the First Four and events surrounding it and one of them is their ticket donation program.

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Bedell reports on average, it donates 3,000-4,000 First Four tickets to airmen from Wright-Patt so they take in NCAA Tournament games.

“We take the funds that our sponsors give us, we purchase tickets and donate them to the airmen, their families, and students in STEM education so they can come and experience a great basketball games right here at UD Arena,” said Spees.

“I’ve been stationed at 11 places and Dayton,” said Colonel Charles Barkhurst, 88th Air Base Wing Vice Commander. “The Dayton surrounding community is the most welcoming community that I’ve been a part of.”

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Bedell spoke with base leadership and an enlisted airman about the program.

Colonel Barkhurst has been on the receiving end of a donated First Four ticket before.

“We get thousands of tickets donated every year from different arts places, different sports teams and of course, the Big Hoopla,” he said. “So, it’s great for our folks to get these free tickets to go out for a concert and see a game and they really love and appreciate it.”

Tech Sergeant James Mrosko has also been on the receiving end and the gesture does not go unnoticed.

“We’ll sit courtside and then, you know, we’ll get sometimes a little shout out at the game or some of us will go and get food,” Mrosko told Bedell. “And you always hear someone in the crowd, thank you for your service. And, you know, it’s just awesome the support we get.”

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Bedell says between the First Four and regular season games for both the Dayton Flyers at UD Arena and the Wright State Raiders at the Nutter Center, this program has donated more than 100,000 tickets since it started 11 years ago.

More information on The Big Hoopla can be found here.