Today I packed up some volleyballs to send to the deserving programs of the Special Olympics in Jamaica and to coach Wiyaka Chasing Hawk, who is making volleyball happen for kids on the reservation at the Cheyenne River Project in Eagle Butte, S.D.
These donated balls came from the USA Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships, where we have asked teams to “leave a ball behind” at the end of their season so we can gift them for teams in need. Thousands of balls have come from the courts at JOs, collected by the officials working the tournament (thanks Sue Mailhot et al.), which then get boxed and put on the truck and delivered to USA Volleyball’s grassroots department.
As I flattened the balls into odd looking taco shapes, the names of hundreds of kids who signed the balls for good luck to the recipients made me smile. Team names are on the balls too. Rockworld Thunder… Texas Power 18… Gainesville Athletic Club…Stellar… Munciana, Stingray “Bronze Champion” … were just a few of those I read as I boxed them up.
THANK YOU to each and every team who contributed. It makes a difference to so many others who love the game just as much, but who are in just a less fortunate situation. I threw in some USA Volleyball decals, as all are connected to the USAV family - even when from a far away land - and kids love getting the chance to show their pride in our sport.
I would love to see each Regional Volleyball Association (RVA) and even large clubs have their own leave a ball behind program so that the region can donate balls to deserving programs in their own area. Some RVAs wisely do that with the lost and found balls at the end of the season, but perhaps some of you reading this can help the Region and collect just one ball from each program in your age group at Regionals or whatever ends your season. If you ship them to USA Volleyball Grassroots here in Colorado Springs, we will send them along, as we have for years, to Starlings USA programs, Special Olympic programs, Hurricane Katrina schools and NORCECA nations needing balls for their youth.
My bet is you can find such deserving programs in your own RVA, and can hand deliver them to Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and other affiliated organizations connected to USAV. In any case, thanks for helping us grow the game…and we look forward to your contributions to the Leave a Ball Behind program at the end of this season once again!