All-night dodgeball is not for sissies, and apparently, that’s exactly what I am. A middle-aged wimp who, after almost taking a fast one to the forehead, decided to call it a night and go home. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, CASA hosted an all night dodgeball game at the rec center on Friday, Feb. 25, and I had signed on to chaperone for a few hours, despite the fact that my high school senior would not be participating. When I told people what I’d be doing on my birthday, they all had the same response: “Are you insane?”
Apparently, I AM insane. Insane for any kind of activity that Mo’town kids can enjoy sans drugs, alcohol and/or cigarettes. I am so pro-CASA that I want to help them in any way that I can, and on Friday night, that meant checking kids in, affixing armbands and almost concussing from a whack on the head.
Before we get into the gory details of the evening, a quick and appreciative shout-out to Tom Sadler and his cadre of volunteers for transforming The Loft (which is what the third floor is now called) from drab to dazzling. Tom chose to repaint and refurbish The Loft as part of his Eagle Scout project. Tom and company did an amazing job, but I think Tom’s mother Sue also deserves some props because I’m sure, with her exquisite eye for color, that she helped choose the eye-popping red that accented the once dreary woodwork and radiators. Tom even got new furniture for the joint that is nicer than anything in my house. For his next Eagle Scout project, I am hoping that Tom will get some furniture donations for my family room. Way to go, Tom!
When I first arrived at The Loft on Friday night, I was dismayed to see a lack of female participants. The majority of teams were all male, with coordinating T-shirts and make-up. No doubt about it, these guys meant business. There were several brave girls on one team, but most of the estrogen in attendance belonged to the volunteer staff. I felt like I had inadvertently wandered into some peculiar male bonding ritual. The only things missing were drums and a campfire. I didn’t feel out of place, though, because my advanced age rendered me invisible to the hoards of hungry young men, hooting and chanting and chugging Gator-Ade.
After the obligatory reading of the rules, the first matches began at close to ten o’clock in the gym downstairs. There were two matches (four teams) going on at the same time, with volunteer refs keeping order, enforcing rules and calling players out. Because I am not graced with vertical attributes, I thought I would squeeze into the bleachers to watch. Bad, bad move. The bleachers were folded up, leaving only the top row, for a reason. Dodgeball is played fast and furious. The ball may be of the soft foam Nerf variety, but it call still knock someone’s glasses off or cause a migraine. I was shoved into a corner with some fans of the Moorestown Education Association, who had a team of both male and female teachers competing in the contest. Did they plan on staying all night? Who knows? It was a nice PR move, since the kids were thrilled to see their teachers out there flinging balls and making heroic leaps to avoid getting smacked.
The nice thing about using a soft foam ball is that there is a little swing to it when it’s thrown, so that if you see that it is coming directly at your head, there is time for you to get your hands in position to fend off the ball. After doing this several times, I decided that my chaperoning skills would be best utilized back upstairs in The Loft where teams not playing were lounging on the furniture and partaking of food and beverage, all donated by local businesses. It was very hard, as a mom and an owner of shabby family room couches, to watch the kids putting their feet up on the new furniture, leaving bottles and food everywhere and generally not cleaning up after themselves. And although chaperoning in no way entails being a maid, I still found myself picking up after the kids as I looped around The Loft, making sure all was well.
I am in total awe of the many, many people who volunteer their time and effort to make an event like this work. Usually, I am just another pair of eyes. I make a tray of brownies, bring a couple liters of soda and spend several hours watching the kids enjoying themselves. Because of my status as a world-class eavesdropper, I sometimes feel that I should be paying CASA for allowing me to observe the teenage species in their natural habitat. The kids are so engrossed in having fun, hanging with their friends and just chilling that they aren’t paying any attention to the adults. I can watch them and remember when I was their substitute teacher. I can listen to the goofy things they say and in some cases, think back to how they were at age 8 or 10, playing with my sons in our basement or getting together a late summers’ night game of jail-break.
I won’t lie to you. I was willing to donate a few hours of my time to chaperone, but I was not willing to pull an all-nighter. The lure of the flannel sheets was too much for me. But the majority of the adults that volunteered were there ALL NIGHT with YOUR children. For that alone, we should buy them all a new car and be slavishly grateful when we run into them at Wegmans. What a gift that we live in a town where people are willing to lose a night’s sleep just so our teenagers can rock out all night playing dodgeball!
Moorestown could do so much better in so many areas: the Library/Town Hall debacle, the lack of a senior center, the non-inviting Main Street vibe, etc. But where it counts, we have so many people who help out with little to no fanfare: the people who run CASA, MoorArts, STEM, the Buss family, the Garden Club, the Eagle Scouts, the folks trying to rebuild the Fullerton playground, the local women who organized a clothes closet for the less fortunate in our town. Holy cow! There ARE people doing fabulous things in this town, but they can always use more volunteers. If I sound like a public service announcement, please accept my apologies. I am just feeling humble and small yet so grateful to be blessed by the givers. In my own way, I am trying to give back and I’d love for you to join me.