Giving Back With Dodgeball: Area Students Organize Charity Tournament for Africa

Two Farmington Hills Mercy High School students are hosting Dodge for a Cause this weekend at Groves, a charity dodgeball tournament that's raising money for the Troy nonprofit, Bands that JAM for Africa.

When Mercy High School sophomores Alexandria Sobczak and Christina Miracle began thinking about what they wanted for Christmas this year, they had one big idea: they wanted to give back.

Though the teens attend school in Farmington Hills and live in Bloomfield Hills and Beverly Hills, they're giving back to a Troy-based charity to help those who not only don't have Christmas presents, but who don't have food, water or a place to sleep at night.

In Dodge for a Cause, a charity dodgeball tournament happening this Sunday at Birmingham's Groves High School, the girls are pairing up with the nonprofit Bands that JAM for Africa. The organization hosts benefit concerts and provides funding for the South African-based nonprofit, Joint Aid Management (JAM), which sponsors relief and sustainable development efforts throughout Africa.

Beverly Hills resident Miracle, 16, said she first dreamed of doing something special for others over the summer, after she attended a church camp.

"I thought, what if we could bring a different form of Christianity to everyone?" she said. "I really wanted to do something to help someone this Christmas season."

The girls paired up with Bands that JAM after meeting the group's founder, 19-year-old Troy resident Morgan Fisher, who founded the nonprofit when she was 14.

"Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty, showcase the musicians of tomorrow and inspire teenagers that it doesn't take much to make a difference," Bands that JAM's website reads. "Just buy a ticket. Enjoy the show. Change a life."

Joining the teens at the dodgeball tournament this Sunday will be Bands That Jam artist Lancifer, who will be performing throughout the tournament.

Girls hope to make giving fun through dodgeball

Of course, both Sobczak and Miracle noted they couldn't have planned Dodge for a Cause alone. Bloomfield Hills resident Sobczak, 15, said 20 of their friends helped them plan the event, as did the Edge youth group at Kensington Community Church.

Planning the tournament was also made easier by a dozen business sponsors throughout the Birmingham-Bloomfield area, including a restaurant that donated pizza for 200, and a local church that donated 400 free cookies.

Still, both girls — longtime friends as well as volleyball players and swimmers at Mercy — have done much of the legwork for Dodge for a Cause themselves; whether it's finding sponsors, organizing the tournament and recruiting players.

"There's definitely been a learning curve," said Sobczak. "But it's been so much fun to plan something like this."

"She's the planner. I'm the dreamer," Miracle added.

But why dodgeball?

"Helping people doesn't have to be a chore or a boring act," the Dodge for a Cause website reads, an idea that inspired Sobczak and Miracle to forgo the usual fundraiser and plan a dodgeball tournament instead.

"We wanted something different. Something fun," Sobczak said. "But at the same time, you're helping people."

Already, excitment is running high among the 160 students already registered for the tournament. Participating students attend a variety of local high schools — from Groves and Seaholm, to Andover and Lahser, to Brother Rice and Detroit Country Day.

'It's amazing how giving people really are'

The rules for Dodge for a Cause are easy. Teams are made up of 10 young people, and students are encouraged to form as many teams representing their school as possible. Currently, Brother Rice leads the way with the most registered teams, the girls say.

Students are then encouraged to dress in their craziest attire — prizes will be awarded for the best dressed team — and then hit their opponents as hard as possible, with as many dodge balls as possible.

Sobzcak and Miracle said to keep things fair, there will be separate girls and boys tournaments, with the winning teams playing each other in a final championship match. The girls have also organized a moment of silence for David Widzinski, the Catholic Central student who passed away on Dec. 3_.

The ultimate goal of the game: win at all costs (with the winning team receiving a $200 grand prize and "golden dodgeball" trophy). The ultimate goal of the day, however, is to raise as much money as possible.

With the cost to participate at $5 per person, Sobzcak and Miracle said the fees collected from one team can take care of a child in Africa for an entire year. By the end of the day, the girls hope to raise at least $1,000.

Planning Dodge for a Cause has served as an inspiration for both Sobzcak and Miracle, who — days before the event — are still dazed by the popularity of the tournament.

"It's almost like it's not real," said Miracle.

"It's amazing how giving people really are," Sobzcak added.

It's been so inspiring, in fact, that both girls are already looking forward to next year, when they plan on brining Dodge for a Cause back for a second year — bigger and better than ever.

If you go

  • When: 6-9 p.m.
  • Where: Groves High School
  • Cost: $5 at the door
  • More info: Participants are reminded to fill out their permission slip and have it signed by a parent or guardians. Permission slips can be found at the Dodge for a Cause website.


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