CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Ten years ago, Kris Wright and his wife Heather experienced a devastating loss when their daughter Nora was born prematurely and never made it home from the hospital. However, they were able to find inspiration from that loss.

“We tried to create something positive from a very hard personal event,” Wright said. 

The Wrights created Play for Preemies, an annual girl’s basketball tournament that for the past six years has raised awareness and funding for research on premature birth at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville and Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital in Roanoke. 

“It's truly an amazing thing that so many people have bought into that we're doing. And it's a great way to pay back those folks,” Wright said. 

Last year, the Wrights were unable to hold the event due to COVID-19 restrictions and weren’t sure if this year would be any better, but they were impressed with the turnout in the end.

“We weren't really sure what to expect today in terms of attendance or, or donations. But so far, it's been incredible,” Wright said. 

One of those in attendance was Wright’s former player, Katherine Crickenberger, who was inspired by her coach in more ways than one.

Wright says it’s people like her that inspire him to run the event year after year.

“I always say they're superheroes, take babies who are smarter than a couple cans of soup, and allow them to grow and get stronger and then eventually be home with their parents,” he said. 

The Wrights have raised $21,500 over the last six years for preemie research and are grateful to all who have helped them add to that total this year.