After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Cheshire High School community was excited to bring back B1 Day on May 31. The day traditionally focuses on inclusive activities indoors, but for this year, a new event drew a big crowd at the campus sand volleyball pit.
Students and teachers teamed up for the First CHS Charity Volleyball Tournament. In the title match, Link Crew won 30-28 over the Young Republicans Club and got to donate the grand prize, a $1,000 check, to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I thought that the school came together to support everyone,” said Link Crew’s Shane Wynne, who graduated last week. “It was a great time.”
“Everything ran so smoothly. It was a great time,” stated co-advisor and psychology teacher Renee Shirk. “Students, who wouldn’t normally interact, enjoyed each other’s company.”
Back in February, the Young Republicans decided to start the inaugural event.
“It basically started with us wanting to come up with ways to help the community,” recalled club member Michael Salamone, who will be attending Clemson University (South Carolina) this fall. “We came up with a volleyball tournament to promote getting involved.”
The club was happy to receive the support of Principal Dr. Mary Gadd, who suggested that the event be a part of B1 Day.
“B1 is an inclusive day,” said Salamone. “The whole school came together to support our cause.”
To raise money for the tournament, students reached out to local businesses and organizations for donations toward the prize money and things like t-shirts.
“It is hard to get things started in the first year,” said Shirk. “The businesses covered the cost of the shirts. The (overall) total came in at $960 and the students kicked in the other $40 to reach the final amount.”
The Cheshire Alumni Association, Component Engineers Inc., Masonic Temple Corporation, Alexander & Grenon Chiropractic Center, Because of the Brave, Cheshire Dental Associates, Cheshire Fitness Zone, Fat Wedge U, Free Masons of Wallingford, Paws Pet Resort & Spa, Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation, Shef’s Bagels, Vespucci’s Restaurant, 122 Elm Street Tavern, and the Red Door Gift Shop donated to the tournament effort.
“These businesses went out of their way to do this for us,” said Wynne. “At the end (of the fundraiser), they had a lot of smiles on their faces and it doesn’t get better than that.”
Young Republicans’ Caleb Culhane designed the front logo for the 120 color-coded tournament shirts. Members of the Young Republicans and Peer Health Educators group worked together on an assembly line to put three graphics on the clothing.
Career and Technical Education Teacher Sean McKeown helped the students with the layout and ordering process.
“Sean made the equipment available and knew how to order things in bulk,” recalled Shirk.
For the tourney, organizers sent out invitations to club advisors and some sports coaches. The Drama Club, Link Crew, Cheshire’s Lights of Hope, Ram TV, as well as the swim and dive, fencing, and track and field teams, were among the groups to show interest. Cheshire teachers also formed a squad.
“The Young Republicans are a small group, but they worked incredibly hard planning this event,” stated Shirk. “They wanted to include other clubs at CHS. That was a great way to get the word out and start recruiting for next year.”
Each player had to pay a $12 registration fee. Twelve teams (eight players each) got to pick their own charity and the winning team got to make one collective donation.
As the host squad, the Young Republicans chose the Wounded Warriors Project for their cause.
“A lot of us have a connection with the military,” stated Salamone. “Many service people get injured overseas and we want to help them however we can.”
Due to having a competitive advantage, CHS volleyball players weren’t able to play in the event, but they were given a role as officials.
On B1 Day, volleyball action started at 11 a.m. and ran until just before 2 p.m. Except for the title match, teams played up to 15 points or a 10-minute time limit.
“The games were pretty competitive,” recalled Shirk.
Before a big crowd, the Link Crew pulled out their two-point win over the Young Republicans in the title match.
“It definitely came down to the wire,” reflected Wynne. “It was a really good environment.”
“Nobody wanted to move because they didn’t want to miss it (the match),” added Shirk.
Recently, Shirk presented the winning $1,000 check to Cheshire’s Kailan family, who sent it to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The organization is the leading fundraiser research to battle the diseases.
“It was great to play for them,” stated Wynne. “I know a few kids on the (Link Crew) team who have been affected by that type of cancer.”
Wynne felt that the tournament was a good way to finish his senior year with Link Crew, an organization that allows upperclassmen to serve as mentors for freshmen at their school.
“It was great to be a role model for the younger generation,” said Wynne, who will attend Bucknell University (Pennsylvania) this fall.
With the success of the volleyball tournament, organizers hope that it becomes a traditional event.
“I won’t be going to school (CHS) there next year, but I might come back to help out on B1 Day,” added Wynne.