Since she could walk, Beth Ratke said she's been on the basketball court, and since then, her love of the game only grew.
Now, the St. John Neumann Regional Academy senior who plays center on the school's varsity team will disperse that enthusiasm for the sport across several generations to earn her Gold Award in Girl Scouts, the highest achievement earned in the organization.
Ratke will hold a St. John Neumann Alumni Basketball Game at 3 p.m. Dec. 20, as well as a basketball clinic for first- to eighth-grade students in the academy from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the high school gymnasium, 901 Penn St.
The alumni game is open to all those in the St. John Neumann's graduating classes from 1970 to 2009. It will be a full-regulation game, complete with coaches for the Maroon and Gold teams, referees and timekeepers, she said.
Ratke added the public also is invited to attend, and the admission cost for the public and participants is the same.
"I will be collecting food as a donation to get into the gym and will be donating that food to St. Anthony's Center," Ratke said.
A minimum of one nonperishable item is needed to get in, she said.
The senior said she wanted to develop a project based around her deep interest in sports.
"I knew that I wanted to incorporate basketball into this Girl Scout project," she said. "And wanted to reach out to the St. John Neumann family."
Ratke, who is part of Girl Scout Troop No. 221 at St. Ann's Parish on Northway Road in Loyalsock Township, has been working on the project since July.
She has been working with Sister Henry Lambert, director of St. Anthony's Center, and numerous officials at the academy who have worked to organize the event, particularly alumnus Mike Beiter, now general manager at Lamar Advertising, who helped arrange the electronic billboard promotions.
"I am so overwhelmed at people's response to my project," she said. "Everyone has been so supportive and enthusiastic."
Ratke said she hopes participants experience the same thrill and excitement of being on the court at their alma mater, and also hopes the experience will help reconnect classmates and forge new friendships among them.
"I have heard from alumni from various parts of the country, representing many graduation years," she said. "The responses I have received have all been very positive, and I am enjoying conversing with Neumann alumni from the past four decades."
Ratke said she hopes to see the event continue next year. Based on the early responses she's received thus far, the student said the interest "is certainly there."
"It's my hope that next year I will be on the Neumann Alumni Basketball team," she added.