This post was reported and written by Mark H. Stowers.
March Madness has filled athletic venues around the US and everybody has a bracket. But at Royal Oak Middle School this past Friday, students, teachers and fans were following only one bracket – the second Annual Gatorball Tournament bracket.
It’s best described as dodgeball for a cause and it comes from the creative genius minds of the schools’ student council. Headed by teachers Kerry Derminer and Deborah Taylor and the ROMS Student Council, more than $1,700 was raised in registration and admission fees alone from the event. The National Junior Honor Society was on hand selling snacks and water to help raise more money and a special T-shirt was available for purchase as well.
Several hundred parents and fans were on hand to watch the dodgeball skills of teachers and students. Twenty teams consisting of nine players each took on each other in a three-minute game battle in the best of three games matches. In the end The Thunder took first place under the direction of Team Captain Johnathan Zalewski. Drew and The Tractors led by captain Jocelyn Nitta took second place while Seal Team 6 led by captain Brendan Toggweiler took third place honors. Each team had a specific color T-shirt. Taylor explained that teams are made up of ROMS students from any grade and have to include at least four girls but there can be a team entirely of girls.
ROMS teachers played the inaugural game to launch the festivities. Then the bracketology began. There was a winner’s bracket and a loser’s bracket. The Thunder finished with only one loss blemishing their efforts.
Taylor and Derminer have seen the event grow from an idea to raising several thousand dollars for cancer research.
“We have nine more teams than last year,” Taylor said. “As soon as word got out, teams started forming. It’s old school rules – it’s dodgeball. It’s an intense three minutes.”
The event continues to grow in only its second year. The Student Council chose to be a part of Relay for Life and “adopt” the cause due to it being held at the middle school’s facilities each June.
“We wanted to try and help sponsor and this year we are selling t-shirts through April 4 to honor (middle school principal) Mrs. (Zoe) Marcus who’s fighting cancer right now,” Taylor said. “We want to show support to her.”
The $10 T-shirts can be purchased from the school through its website, or stop by the school and picking up an order from the main office. Proceeds from the shirts go straight to Relay for Life.
Derminer learned about the dodgeball idea while at a student council conference three years ago.
“We saw a presentation from Anchor Bay High School and we decided we wanted to bring it here for Relay for Life,” Derminer said. “This year we were only going to have 16 teams but we went to 20 and I actually had to put teams on a waiting list.”
Each team member pays a $15 registration fee that includes the T-shirt and pizza during the event. Last year’s event raised $1,035 for cancer research. The ROMS Student Council has been busy fundraising for several causes this year in addition to Relay for Life.
“We like to keep the money in Royal Oak. We did a bake sale today and the money goes to what we call the Puppies and Kitties at Royal Oak Animal Shelter. We donated also over $4,100 dollars to leukemia and lymphoma through our Pennies for Patients this year. We had a talent show and we donated $735 to Red Cross.”
ROMS student Mackenzie Kelly was on hand to cheer on students and teachers alike.
“I’m here to support Relay for Life. I’m walking in it this year,” Kelly said. “I enjoy Gatorball. We play it in gym and its fun to watch the students and teachers play in the tournament.”
The double-elimination tournament has featured a seventh grade winning team each year thus far. Johnathan Zalewski, captain of the 2014 winning team, The Thunder, was happy with his team’s effort and success.
“We beat the eighth graders,” Zalewski said. “We all sit at the same lunch table so we’re all friends.”
The event is held each March and fans are encouraged to take in the festivities next year as well as other ROMS Student Council sponsored events. This is one bracket that’s always a winner no matter which team comes out on top.