When Erinn Cassidy decided six weeks ago to organize Digs for Denise, a volleyball tournament fundraiser for Wings of Karen in honor of her friend who is battling triple negative breast cancer, she hoped to raise $1,000.
Cassidy was astonished after the tournament, which was held at Lake Wilderness Park on Aug. 3, when the total came to more than $6,000 and continued to grow, eventually passing the $7,200 mark.
“It went better than I could have ever expected or imagined,” Cassidy said.
Her friend, Denise Thom, has been battling the rare and aggressive form of breast cancer for the past couple of years, Cassidy said.
“It’s actually the type of breast cancer they’ve done the least amount of research on,” she explained.
Cassidy said that she selected Wings of Karen because Thom is a supporter of the Maple Valley based nonprofit and all of the funds raised through the nonprofit go to Seattle area breast cancer researchers.
As for the idea for a volleyball tournament, that came from both the Thom and Cassidy families involvement in the sport. Maple Valley’s Synergy volleyball club sponsored and helped organize the event.
“There were just so many people who kept asking how they could help her (Denise),” Cassidy said. “So I thought if I organized a volleyball tournament…I thought it would be a fun day to play volleyball and maybe raise a little money.”
As the weeks before the event flew by, the size of the event continued to grow.
“We had prizes and donations and everything coming in faster than we could manage,” Cassidy said.
In the end, 24 teams with more than 100 players signed up. There were also games, raffles and a silent auction, and three University of Washington volleyball players came to show their support.
“I would guess there were 150-200 other people who came to the park to be a part of the event itself,” Cassidy said.
The tournament was split into age divisions with two different types of play: pool play in the morning and a single elimination bracket in the afternoon.
During a lunch break Cassidy said they had a chance to share Thom’s and Wings of Karen’s stories. Thom was then presented tickets to watch the UW team play this fall.
Overall there were six divisions represented at the tournament, with four being junior divisions and two for adults. Winners of the U12 division was You Gotta Have Faith, U14 was won by No Name Just Game, U16 by Pinkalicious, U18 by Pinksterz, Adult Rec by Too Hot to Handle, and Adult Intermediate by I’d Hit That.
What made the tournament such a success, Cassidy said, was the community support and volunteers who donated their time and expertise to organizing the event.
“It made it something that could be pulled off in six weeks,” Cassidy said. “It was a combination of a lot of people who really love her (Thom), or who could connect with the story.”
And this year was just the beginning. The vision for the tournament is that it will become an annual fundraising event.
“Denise felt really strongly that the tournament be an annual event,” Cassidy explained. “There were a lot of people asking when the date is for next year already.”