Daniel Exter with his fiancee, Dana. Photo courtesy of Daniel Exter

Daniel Exter lived for the game of basketball. He played high school and AAU ball, attended basketball camps and enjoyed fully immersing himself in the sport.

But, on July 13, 2013, Exter wondered if he would ever be able to live a normal life again, never mind lay it all out there on the hardwood.

When the doctor called Exter on that fateful day in July he didn’t know what to expect. As he noted in his personal account of that morning, a call from a doctor at 9:00 a.m. on a weekend is never a good sign. Blood tests revealed that he had signs of anemia, a low platelet count, and a high white blood cell count. Then more testing uncovered a feared diagnosis: cancer.

For one year, Exter battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.); ultimately receiving a stem cell depleted transplant through a donor process with his brother and beating the 25 percent odds of finding a match.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Exter

But, Exter doesn’t want to be remembered for his experience with cancer. Just a few months after treatment, he knew he wanted to give back to the community and support a cause that he now had a personal connection to through his own experience. With his then girlfriend, now fiancé Dana, Exter started a non-profit organization called Layups4Life, and he now hosts an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament and family event day every year.

The event and the organization allowed him to remain involved in the sport he loved and give back to a cause that matters deeply to him. The tournament and the non-profit has morphed into a year-round project with the 3-on-3 tournament day serving as the capstone of the group’s efforts every year.

Layups4Life will celebrate it’s third anniversary on April 29, and Exter said the growth and success of his program is special to him, his family and the community at large.

“It’s surreal; it’s really is surreal,” he said. “There was a point when I thought I would never play the game again. I never knew if I was going to step on a court again. To be able to play the tournament and run it, and to see the community forming together, it’s special.”

In the first year of Layups4Life, 40 teams attended the inaugural tournament held at Exter’s alma mater, Roxbury High School in Succasunna, NJ. Together, with the community support, the organization raised over $10,000 for cancer research, far exceeding his expectations, he said.

Since the first year, Layups 4 Life has donated almost $30,000 to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for ongoing research and clinical trials.

The tournament this year will include events for the whole family including the traditional 3-on-3 game as well as a silent auction, a raffle, a DJ and special vendors.

Exter hopes his efforts and his story inspires other community members to participate in the event, and he ultimately plans to expand Layups4Life beyond his New Jersey neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Exter

“I hope we keep growing and expanding beyond NJ into Philly, Boston, Connecticut,” he said. “With media coverage, hopefully people will hear my story and want to get involved and want to help us. We’d like to grow organically with a bigger venue and do the tournament twice a year. I hope it gets around, and that people want to support it.”

Exter’s story has garnered media coverage in his local area, but when people read his story, he wants them to feel inspired not pity.

“I’m very lucky, I try to tell my story as a sense of inspiration, that someone can use as a way to make their experience, or outlook different” he said. “I wanted to share my story, I want to make a difference.”

And with every layup, he is.

If you’d like to sign up a team for the 3rd Annual Layups 4 Life 3-on-3 Charity Basketball Tournament, you can do so by going to their Eventbrite page (registration deadline is April 24, event day is April 29). Cost of admission is free but a donation is appreciated. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.