By Karen Stahl
Looking out over the nearly 500-person crowd at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena on Feb. 21, Toms River Local 137 member Samantha Sutter knew the 50/50 raffle, food vendors, bounce houses and face painting had been worth the year-long planning process – and, of course, large rubber balls heaved against fluorescent lights claimed the spotlight.
Toms River Local 137’s 2nd Annual Dodgeball Tournament raised nearly $14,000 to support riders from the Local for the Police Unity Tour. But on this night, the energy exceeded fundraising. It burst forth as a holler-with-your-whole-family spectacle.
“My favorite part is when finally everything’s underway and everything’s under control,” Sutter shared about organizing the past two years. “I just like to take a step back and watch people playing and see how everybody gets into the games.”
Other Locals came out to support the cause and made up some of the 50 registered teams. In fact, Stafford Township Local 297 took home the top tournament prize as winner of the adult division. The win seems fitting, especially since a tournament in Stafford Township a couple of years ago motivated Sutter to test it out in Toms River.
“I thought, ‘Why don’t we try that here and see if it’ll take off?’” she recalled. “And it did. We wanted to try to get a family event where we could get people together for a fun night in the middle of winter – when there’s nothing else to do – and raise money for a good cause.”
The electric spirit of the event is only matched by the level of community generosity. Toms River Local 137 State Delegate Jesse Robertazzi felt honored to support the dodgeball tournament, and in turn, the Police Unity Tour.
“This is an important event for our Police Unity Tour riders because it helps them raise money for the event,” Robertazzi relayed. “It allows them to interact with friends and supporters on the dodgeball court in a fun and exciting atmosphere.”
Planning for next year’s tournament is already underway. Sutter mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to pull off an evening this monumental without her team to help with the advertising and organization, and she can’t wait to see how they’re going to top the event in its third year.
“The crowd gets so excited, and everybody’s having a good time just watching a simple dodgeball game,” she expressed. “It’s awesome to see us as an agency come together, but it’s even better to see all the other supporting PBAs who played.”