Students at the University of Rhode Island will have their feet planted firmly on the ground at the Rotaract Club’s hot air balloon festival this Friday on the Quadrangle, but their contributions will go a long way in helping children in Africa.

The event, entitled “Up, Up, and Away! Hot Air Balloon Festival”, will give students the unique opportunity to gain admittance to a hot air balloon tent while also providing opportunities for young men and women in Nigeria. The festival was planned in partnership with the Student Entertainment Committee and Unsung Talent Basketball.

Unsung Talent Basketball is a non-profit organization created by former URI men’s basketball player and senior financing major Ifeanyi Onyekaba, with the intent of both empowering and providing educational opportunities through basketball.  Onyekaba, a native of Nigeria, believes that he’s able teach and instill the values of discipline and drive into the children who attend his clinic, while also teaching them the importance of education and a good work ethic.

The efforts made by Onyekaba help to achieve similar goals and ideals are held by Rotaract, so it’s not surprising that the two would partner up together to make a positive difference.  The URI Rotaract Club, which President Samuel Klemarczyk describes as the college division of Rotary International, is a university-based services organization that aims to help other students develop professionalism and leadership skills, as well as supporting community activism and involvement.

“We’re just trying to help him get the funds he needs,” Klemarczyk said. “Not only to run the program, but to get new jerseys, get new basketballs, get shoes, and get everything he needs over there.”  

For students interested in attending, admittance to the hot air balloon tent can be gained with either a $2 donation or a donation of new or used sneakers – all of which will help fund Unsung Talent Basketball’s second returning basketball clinic in Nigeria this August. Onyekaba said that he hopes for the event to be held annually.

Apart from Rotaract’s hot air balloon tent, Onyekaba will also have a booth on the quad to help answer questions and inform students of how they can become more involved.  The URI Police food truck will also be on site with free food, along with the SEC and chances to win tickets to see Dave Coulier, Uncle Joey from “Full House,” speak at the Ryan Center on April 24.  


*The hot air balloon festival will be held weather permitting, as long as winds do not exceed 8 mph.