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Sometimes, it’s about more than just winning and losing in sports.
Sparks Volleyball wanted to show that to its girls when directors Marty and Jenny Sandos and co-directors Mel and Ryan Algeo decided to turn this year’s season into about giving back to the community as well as about the game of volleyball.
“We’ve been in existence (for 12 years) and we have a steady flow of young ladies playing for us and they started with us when they were younger,” Marty Sandos said. “We just decided it would be a nice gesture to do something as a club and team-bonding event and also try to give back to the community.”
The travel volleyball club from West Chester, with its 132 girls and 12 teams, decided to have each individual team choose a charity of its choice for the season.
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“I didn’t want it to be just about raising money,” Sandos said. “I wanted them more to work at something together. If it involved money that would be great, but to us, it was more about them working together and spending some time — even if it was practice time — going to places like Melmark, which is a residential facility, and playing with the residents or just spending time at the SPCA; Whatever they chose that they wanted to do.”
So the 12 teams got together and most picked something different from one another.
12 Blue chose to make blankets for women and children for Domestic Abuse Families; 13 Blue, 15 Blue and 16 White all helped out at the CCSPCA; 13 White helped with Project Linus; 14 White visited Melmark; 14 Red and 15 White wrote letters to soldiers; 16 Blue helped at Bernardine Center in Chester; 17 White helped with the West Chester Food Bank; 17 Blue helped at the ARC of Chester County; and 14 Blue helped the United Way of Chester County.
“I was amazed by their commitment and enthusiasm and how well they worked together,” Sandos said. “They have to work together on the court to perform well, but it also showed them as a group, if they work together at something, good things can happen. It was nice seeing that from all the girls.”
Though the season is still going, the staff decided to hold a Give Back Community Day on March 22 at West Chester Rustin high school for the girls, who range in age from 12 to 18.
“We cancelled all the practices and we had all the girls and coaches come,” Sandos said. “We had a club picture taken and then we had a representative from each team explain what they did and how the team performed their community service and had some fun events.”
Completely unplanned beforehand, the staff also started a Go Fund Me campaign in honor of a player’s cousin, who was just diagnosed with a disease — a mere six months after losing his father to cancer.
All this and he’ll only be entering his freshman year in college.
“We decided that we could have the girls go to the concession stands and buy food,” Sandos said. “We bought 250 pretzels and six dozen donuts and drinks with the club’s funds. We told the girls we were charging $1 for everything, but it’s whatever you want to give. If you don’t have $1, you can give 50 cents. There were some parents who put a donation in and didn’t get anything.”
When all was said and done, Sparks had raised over $500 for the Billy Phillips Go Fund Me campaign.
Along with that, each girl was asked to bring a canned food and they answered the call with over 100 cans to donate to the West Chester Food Bank.
“For the girls, it’s about realizing how fortunate they are, not just that their parents are able to pay for them to play volleyball, but they’re physically able to play volleyball,” Sandos said.
Everything regarding giving back to the community, from the work to the celebration March 22, was such a success that the staff has decided to make this a yearly thing for the girls.
“I got a lot of nice compliments from the parents, saying though they come to play volleyball, they feel their daughters have to realize there’s more to it than going out on the court and winning and losing,” Sandos said. “We’re big on stressing that we’re committed to the family and committed to doing the right things. It’s not just about winning and losing — it’s sportsmanship and this is another example.
“We’re trying to say that we’re not only preparing these girls to play volleyball in high school and hopefully college, but they’re also becoming nice, young ladies in life in general. That’s what it should be about. One day, volleyball is going to end. Being a good person and giving back should last forever.”
If you like to donate to the Billy Phillips Go Fund, please visit http://de.gofund.me/billyphillips.