Opening rush: Dodgeball coordinators receive Distinguished Service Award

February 2020 Posted in People
Mindy Duerst and Erica Rumca. Photo by Melissa Wagoner.

Mindy Duerst and Erica Rumca. Photo by Melissa Wagoner.

By Melissa Wagoner

Raising funds for Silverton’s Project Graduation – a parent organization which puts on an all-night, drug and alcohol-free post-graduation celebration – is no small feat. With an average of 225 kids attending the party each year, costs can range into the thousands. But it is well worth all the effort it takes to fund this annual fete, according to Erica Rumca, who, along with Mindy Duerst, heads up the primary fundraiser – the Silverton Dodgeball Tournament.

“We want to make sure every kid gets a graduation party,” Rumca explained. “And it’s really important that every kid get a
gift because for some kids, they don’t get a gift and they don’t get a party.”

Rumca and Duerst developed the tournament 10 years ago when their two oldest children were seniors.

“We started working on Project Graduation in fundraising,” Rumca recalled. “I handled all the raffles that year. So, I went to all the basketball games that year and I think I made $1,800 for all that effort. Wow, was that a lot of work!”

Those disappointing returns compelled the two women to put their heads together and create a different kind of fundraiser, one that would take the place of the many, smaller campaigns that were being held throughout the year. What they came up with was a community-wide dodgeball tournament.

“At first [the district] said no,” Rumca said. “I think it was a liability issue.”

Silverton Project Graduation
Dodgeball Tournament

Team Registration and Sponsorship:
• 64 co-ed teams of eight
• $350 new teams, $300 returning
• Registration runs thru March 1
teamsignup@silvertondodgeball.com
Tournament: April 4, 8:30 a.m.
in the SHS Gymnasium.
Admission: $5 or $1 off
with canned food for SACA.
silvertondodgeball.com

But, with persistence, some research, and some borrowed equipment from one of the local elementary schools, the idea won out.

“We had 27 teams our first year,” Rumca said. “We Googled everything.”

Although that first year was a success, it was not without challenges, namely tournament etiquette.

“We’re just moms,” Rumca laughed. “We don’t know anything about tournaments. But the community helped us learn.”

And the community has continued to be a huge help in what has become, an annual community event.

“It takes 110 volunteers the day of,” Rumca said of the tournament, which the organizers have capped at 64 teams.

“And it’s close to 150 volunteers throughout the year,” Duerst added. “There’s a lot of helpers. It’s definitely a team effort. But Silverton has a very supportive community.”

That support has taken many forms including monetary donations and team sponsorships, swag donations used for player awards and time spent setting up, taking down and of course playing.

“We have some years where people will say, ‘We’ll sponsor a team,’ so then we have to fill the teams,” Rumca said. “And we will dig deep to fill every one. Mindy’s asked people on an airplane before.”

But all that effort has not gone unnoticed. Duerst and Rumca were recently nominated for the Silverton Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award for their outstanding fundraising efforts – nearly $25,000 annually to the Project Graduation fund – as well as their creation of a popular community event.

“They haven’t done it alone, but every one of the volunteers will tell you that these two are the heartbeat of the event,” nominator and long-time dodgeball referee Mayor Kyle Palmer wrote in his nomination letter. “They don’t simply stand around and supervise – from the time the first courts are installed in the morning until the last one is put away 10 hours later, they are moving constantly. They organize and supervise teams of referees, scorekeepers, ball boys and girls, court maintenance teams, registration tables, orientation,
and security at the doors.”

Although a surprise to both Rumca and Duerst, the recognition has nonetheless been appreciated.

“I got teary,” Rumca said of the moment she received the award notification. “[T]his is so unnecessary, but appreciated. We just like to do our stuff and step back.”

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