First Four group’s free tickets to Dayton-area military families expected to hit 100K

The Big Hoopla raises money to give away tickets to military personnel with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard base to attend the NCAA two-day opener at the University of Dayton Arena.

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The Big Hoopla raises money to give away tickets to military personnel with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Springfield Air National Guard base to attend the NCAA two-day opener at the University of Dayton Arena.

Ticket donations to Dayton-area military families are expected this year to hit 100,000 since the program began, an organization involved with the First Four said.

The Big Hoopla raises money to give away tickets to military personnel with Wright-Patterson Air Force and Springfield Air National Guard bases to attend the NCAA two-day opener at the University of Dayton Arena.

Working with the Dayton Development Coalition’s Hometown Heroes program, the group also provides the military with free passes for Dayton Dragons, Dayton Live, Dayton Art Institute and Fraze Pavilion events, organizers said.

This year, slightly more than 4,000 tickets are expected to be donated, eclipsing 100,000 for Hometown Heroes, said Terry Slaybaugh, chairman of the local organizing committee for the First Four.

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“We always talk about the economic impact of the tournament and what that brings to the community. And, of course, that’s really important,” he said.

“But the whole reason we do this is to recognize our military families in the Dayton region and be able to show them how much we appreciate the sacrifices that they make for us and for our country,” Slaybaugh added.

Among the eight First Four teams this year will be Wright State University. The Horizon League Tournament champs will play Bryant on Wednesday night.

The Big Hoopla, founded in 2012, gets money from businesses, organizations and private individuals, providing 80 tickets for every $1,000 donated, officials said.

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Wright-Patt, Ohio’s largest single site employer, houses about 31,000 military and civilian jobs, records show.

Wright-Patt First Four attendees this week will witness a swearing-in ceremony of future Air Force personnel, according to Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander.

The base “is privileged to be a part of the Dayton community where our airmen and their families are supported and welcomed by friends, neighbors and businesses alike,” Miller said in a statement.

“The support we receive from this area is unlike any other,” he added.

Hometown Heroes and the Hoopla ticket program “work hand-in-hand to support the Dayton region’s military,” Dayton Development Coalition President and CEO Jeff Hoagland, past chair of the Big Hoopla committee, said in a released statement.

“This milestone represents years of ticket donations to our local military families to hundreds of games, performances and concerts,” he added. “We’re thrilled to celebrate during The Big Hoopla, and look forward to watching some exciting basketball with our military heroes.”

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