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Serving hope: BomberTHON’s Valentine’s Volleyball Tournament raises funds for children’s hospital

Maotemsu+Inchen+27+jumps+to+spike+a+volleyball+at+the+BomberTHON+Valentines+Day+Volleyball+Tournament+on+Feb.+14.+All+funds+from+the+tournament+went+to+Upstate+Golisano+Children%E2%80%99s+Hospital+in+Syracuse%2C+New+York.
Emmi Chen
Maotemsu Inchen ’27 jumps to spike a volleyball at the BomberTHON Valentine’s Day Volleyball Tournament on Feb. 14. All funds from the tournament went to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York.

With their big dance marathon coming up in less than a month on March 3, the Ithaca College organization BomberTHON hosted a Valentine’s Day volleyball tournament to raise money for children getting treatment at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York.

The gym was filled with excitement Feb. 14 with eight four-person teams squaring off against each other to take home the tournament prize of an Applebee’s gift card. The tournament was divided into three rounds and featured students and staff members of all levels, with some players coming from the men’s club volleyball team and some players just learning how to serve the ball.

Different from their past Halloween dodgeball tournaments, BomberTHON allowed not only students, but also staff and faculty members to participate. Each matchup was divided into three games where a team had to win two out of three by scoring 15 points to move on to the next round.

The Ithaca College BomberTHON is a student-run organization that was founded on campus in 2018. It joins hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country who host dance marathons to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Senior Sophia Testani, the executive director of BomberTHON, said that she has been with the organization since her first year at Ithaca College and that having an impact on the children and the families in these hospitals is important to her. Testani said that with its dance marathon coming up, the organization wanted to host another sporting event for participants to have fun while also supporting a good cause.

“For Halloween, we’ve done a dodgeball tournament the last couple of years,” Testani said. “This year, with our main event being March 3, it’s about a month earlier than it normally is, so we wanted to have another sports tournament to try and get people excited and bring in a different crowd to get involved with BomberTHON, and we thought we did dodgeball, [so] we might as well try volleyball.”

Testani explained that the organization has a goal to raise a yearly total of $25,000 and that these events help raise money to meet that total. So far in the 2023–24 academic year, BomberTHON has hosted a range of events such as the Halloween dodgeball tournament, a Taylor Swift trivia night and brunch with BomberTHON.

Additionally, Testani said she does a majority of the planning for these events and started reserving and planning the volleyball tournament back in November 2023. For the tournament, she had to reserve the gym and intramural referees, as well as promote the event with the BomberTHON team.

Senior Annabelle Shanley, the Vice President of Events, said she has been with BomberTHON since August 2021 and said she enjoys these events because they are a fun and enjoyable way to raise money.

“We are just trying to fundraise as much as we possibly can and kind of think creatively in that way,” Shanley said. “We don’t want to just ask people to give us money. We want students and families of ours to give some thought into it and kind of have fun with it.”

Additionally, Shanley said she thinks that BomberTHON is going in a strong direction. During her first year, she said she thought students were not as aware of the organization as they are now. 

“I think it’s heading in a positive direction,” Shanley said. “It seems like the younger students like [first-year students] and sophomores seem to be more educated about it now compared to when I was a [first-year student].”

According to Testani, the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is setting up mental health resources to battle against the mental health crisis in the U.S. Testani said this year’s fundraising money will go directly to that mental health fund.

“The money that we raised this year is being used to help fund the Upstate foundations Mental Health fund where they’re building new clinics and new fellowships and a whole bunch of new programs to help combat the youth mental health crisis that has really been plaguing upstate New York and most of the country,” Testani said. “They’ve seen a huge uptick in [the] pediatric mental health crisis with cases that have been coming into the hospital, and they’re trying to get ahead of that and really treat those kids at a younger age, so they’re not becoming repeat cases and they can help them improve and help them have a better life.”

Sophomore Dylan Feigl, a tournament participant and a member of the men’s club volleyball team, said that he likes to play volleyball any chance he gets and that it makes it even better that the money he pays to play is going to a good cause.

“It’s a fantastic thing,” Feigl said. “I used to play in high school for [a] club and I started on my varsity team. So any chance I get to play is just fantastic because they don’t actually have a team here, so I play on the club team here too.”

Feigl’s team contained two members on the men’s club volleyball team and went all the way to the final matchup where they played the only staff member team. After winning the match 16–14, they lost the final two 15–13 and 15–12. Yangmi Kang, an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Athletic Training and a winner of the tournament, said she likes to support anything she can as a faculty member.

“This is my first year at Ithaca, so anything we can support as a faculty [is] really good,” Kang said. “We’re having fun too.”

Ellie Fulmer, an associate professor in the Department of Education and a winner of the tournament, said some students asked if she would like to participate and she was more than happy too.

“Great, I mean the students asked so that feels really good,” Fulmer said. “They’re doing really good work, so we’re happy to support them.”

Cooper Rothman, a career engagement specialist in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, said it felt great to win the tournament, especially against some tough competition.

“It feels really good,” Rothman said. “I’ve been practicing a lot on my side. It’s good to play against guys that are really good.”

Regardless, Rothman said that winning isn’t as important as supporting a crucial cause.

“I mean, that’s the most important thing,” Rothman said. “I had a lot of fun playing, but it’s mostly about the children’s hospital. So, [I’m] just happy that we could make some money for them.”

Overall with these small events, Testani said she does not want BomberTHON to just be known for their dance marathon.

“I’m hoping that if people see that we’re not just one giant day in the spring, that they’ll be more interested in the events we’ve held,” Testani said. “And I’m kind of just hoping that the more people that see us and the more presence we can have on campus will drive more people to get involved and ask questions about what we do and really care about this cause, so there can continue to be a BomberTHON, and we can continue to have a huge impact for the hospital.”



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