GREEN Boettler Park will be host to a volleyball tournament with a mission this coming weekend.
The Tourney on the Turf is a fundraiser that organizers put together to generate support for a child from the greater Akron area who is facing some sort of health or medical issue that places a large fiscal burden on their family. Past recipients of the proceeds from the event have been children dealing with illnesses such as cancer and Crohn's disease, with another being a boy from Cuyahoga Falls who had been paralyzed in a trampoline accident.
This year, in the event’s 12th edition, Matt Weiss and his fellow organizers are looking to raise as much money as possible for 4-year-old Aubree McDermitt, a Springfield Township girl diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in early nerve cells known as neuroblasts.
"As large as the volleyball community is, unfortunately, we always hear about a family that has a child that is going through some type of battle with their health. So if we are not approached, we will ask around," Weiss said.
Weiss recalled how last summer, McDermitt began experiencing severe fevers and after a number of doctor’s appointments and trips to the emergency room, she and her family received the diagnosis. She was admitted to the oncology floor on Oct. 31 and since then, has made regular visits for treatment and has also undergone a surgery to remove a tumor and continues to receive chemo to fight off what the surgery did not remove.
With six siblings, McDermitt and her family have a large contingent as they deal with the challenges her illness presents. Tournament organizers want to do what they can to ease the family’s financial burden.
"We really work hard at making this a worthwhile event for the kids and the families especially, but also for the participants," Weiss said. "Every year we start with $0 in our budget and every dime we net goes to the family. Much of what we receive in the way of concessions and marketing materials is donated."
Paying for shirts for the event is the biggest expense, Weiss noted, and as the event has grown over the years, that has become more of a challenge. Still, the nature of the event and the fact that it benefits local families has helped its growth,
"This tournament has steadily grown in numbers. Last year we had right around 200 participants," Weiss said. "Additionally, we get a lot of family members of the players as well as friends and family of the kids we are raising money for. There are also people from the community where we hold the tournament coming out to watch and support."
As a recreational volleyball player, Weiss has seen the volleyball community rally behind the tournament. If he and his friends were going to play anyhow, he reasoned, why not play for a good cause? The first Tourney on the Turf event happened in 2007 and the normal field includes 200 or so players, a number Weiss would like to see grow exponentially.
The tournament has what Weiss described as "a very picnic-like atmosphere." While there is action on the court, there is also a raffle with prize baskets, a 50-50 drawing, concessions, a homemade Slip-N-Slide-like ride and music. Not only that, but this year’s event is slated to have a massage therapist on site doing five-minute chair massages.
In years past, Rita’s Italian Ice - based in Cuyahoga Falls - has brought an ice cream cart out and solid its products, with a portion of the proceeds being donated back for the family.
When this year’s tournament tips off on Aug. 5 at 10 a.m., it will feature co-ed divisions for both four- and six-person teams at the A, AA, B, BB and recreational levels. It will also feature a shared goal of helping a child and her family as they try to deal with the difficult serve life has sent their way and volley it back with a smile and determination.
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