Local volleyball club seeks widespread impact with charity tournament

A view of the recent Ignite the Cure vollyeball tournament that was held at Copper Ridge Elementary School in north Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

A new volleyball tournament has settled in the Valley and participants are playing for more than a victory on the court.

Ignite Volleyball Club just wrapped up its first-year tournament called “Ignite The Cure” with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Association’s Hope Lodge in north Phoenix.

While the tournament boasts many aspects, the administrators and organizers are significantly proud of how the club made no money off the tournament and focused on donating.

“Most clubs make money, but our club chose to pay it forward,” Patsy Gonzalez, a cancer survivor and self-proclaimed “team mom,” said during a Dec. 19 phone interview.

“It means a lot to me because we’re showing our girls that there’s good things to do in life. That you don’t always do things for yourself, you do stuff for others.”

Ms. Gonzalez, who spends significant time around the club, helped to organize the tournament by focusing on donations and helping the club to pick Hope Lodge as the recipient of the club’s donations.

Shawn Covely, director and a head coach in the club, said entrance fees, a 50/50 raffle, a gift basket created by each team, donations and T-shirt sales all contributed to the club’s donation to Hope Lodge.

Additionally, Mr. Covely clarified the club did not collect any money from this tournament and the staff volunteered for the charity event.

Mr. Covely said 66 teams participated in several locations around Scottsdale and Phoenix, which vastly exceeded expectations.

The club hosted the tournament over two weekends with the older age groups competing on Dec. 10 and the younger groups on Dec. 17.

“We have received so many positive comments about last week’s tournament: about how well it was run, how fun it was and most importantly, how much it meant to everyone that we were about supporting an amazing organization like Hope Lodge,” Mr. Covely said in a Dec. 15 email response.  “We can only hope that this weekend’s tournament is received in the same way.”

Lissa Erickson, a mother of one of the volleyball players in the club, said she and her daughter are new to Ignite and is impressed to see a club put so much effort into building character through events such as this tournament.

“It makes a huge difference in how the girls see themselves, how they see their responsibility to a broader community and to their expectations of the game,” Ms. Erickson said in a Dec. 15 email response. “They are not just creating a volleyball team, they are forming a community of caring young women and it shows, in the way they treat each other, the way they treat other teams, and their own sense of ownership for improving their world.”

Preparing for ignition

About a year ago, doctors diagnosed Ms. Gonzalez with cancer and Mr. Covely said this news hit the club hard because the club’s culture is a mixture of high-level competition and family values.

Those values shined brightly as Mr. Covely was amazed at the support from the club community for Ms. Gonzalez.

“It showed me that we were more than just a volleyball club, we were a family that stayed strong together and supported each other through ups and downs,” he said.

On the other end, Ms. Gonzalez said despite the effects of cancer treatment, she wanted to be a positive role to those girls in the club.

“When my blood count was good, I would actually go to practices and walk in with a bald head because I wanted these girls to see that I wasn’t ashamed of what I looked like,” she said. “Yes, I was sick but I was still going to show my face, be strong and be a positive role model in these girls’ lives.”

These efforts between the club and Ms. Gonzalez helped form a foundation for the tournament as Mr. Covely said tournament-organizers wanted to give back to the community in a strong way.

That’s when Mr. Covely became aware Ms. Gonzalez had spent significant time volunteering with Hope Lodge.
As Mr. Covely and other club administration learned about Hope Lodge, the more the club wanted to back that organization.

“From there, our Ignite family all raised their hands to help support developing our very first tournament in order to make it a success,” Mr. Covely said.

Mr. Covely credits parents, sponsors, local families and administrators for helping to organize the tournament. Inversely, Ms. Gonzalez said Mr. Covely also deserves a lot of credit.

“I have the utmost respect for Shawn Covely because he was the one who originally said we were going to do a tournament, but we’re going to make it a charity tournament,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “Then I got involved finding what charity we were going to donate to.”

With this year’s immense success, Mr. Covely said there are plans to expand the tournament further.
Additionally, he said by the time next year’s tournament rolls around, the club’s new venue the Victorium in Scottsdale, a new five-court facility with sports-themed healthy restaurants and a second floor mezzanine.

“With Victorium and a few additional area schools and venues, we should be able to support as many teams as we can sign up,” Mr. Covely said.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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