Big pink volleyball served for breast cancer

Big pink volleyball served for breast cancer

By Austin Miller

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. It’s a giant pink volleyball flying through the air.

Thirteen teams of six people took to the courts to find out who could handle the 4 foot diameter ball, all in the name of charity for the Inaugural Big Pink Volleyball Tournament.

Shane Bennett, assistant director of intramural sports and sport clubs, brought the tournament to SIU this year after creating it at Western Illinois University in 2002. He was a founding member of the Big Pink Volleyball National Network, which has raised more than $150,000 at 15 universities.

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Bennett said he was approached by a group of women at WIU who wanted to create an activity to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Bennett has a close connection to the disease, his mother passed away from breast cancer when he was in junior high.

“(This event) hits closer to home than other events,” he said.

Brittany Minnich and Nikki Bordeur, two Recreation Center staff members, worked with local businesses to provide prizes for a raffle.

Minnich, a sophomore from Tinley Park studying therapeutic recreation, said more than eight businesses agreed to help with the raffle.

Brodeur, a junior from Chicago studying business management, said the event is a great way to give back to the community.

The Recreation Center partnered with the Residence Hall Association to sponsor the event. The RHA passed out fliers for the event and donated pink cupcakes for competitors.

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Michaela Lydon, a sophomore from Houston studying mechanical engineering and director of recruitment for RHA, said she hopes the tournament will push students to get involved with cancer research.

“In elementary school, I had three teachers with breast cancer,” said Lydon. “Two of them beat it and one passed away. They were our symbol of hope. Knowing people that have beaten it shows that it’s not just a terminal illness.”

Money raised from the event, totaling nearly $400, goes directly to the Saluki Strength Breast Cancer Fund.

Beth Alongi, assistant director of marketing, has been in charge of the fund. She said the program was founded this year and seeks to create scholarships for students affected by breast cancer.

Juniors and seniors who have had breast cancer, or know family members and friends with the disease can apply for the scholarships, which Alongi said she wants to have for the 2015 school year.

She said she has had more than two-dozen students tell her their stories and express interest in a scholarship.

“A lot of the time, it was guys that stopped to tell me their story,” she said. “It’s primarily a female thing, so when males tell their stories, it’s sometimes more touching.”

Alongi has also had her own experiences with the disease, losing two friends before the age of 40.

Spider-Man decided to swing by to find if his web-slinging skills translated to the volleyball court. He revealed his identity as James Johnston-Deming, a junior from Metropolis studying animation.

Johnston-Deming said he lost his great-grandmother to the illness and has participated in other charity events, such as Relay for Life.

He said he was surprised by how difficult it was to play with the huge ball.

“It was tougher than I thought,” he said. “It takes a lot more muscle and effort than a normal ball.”

Bennett said he hopes the tournament will grow and become more popular each year. He said his plan is to have more teams, so there will be a week-long tournament.

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