Mudball players raise awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Saturday, July 10, 2010 | 7:59 p.m. CDT
Bladder Splatters team member Greg Link prepares to serve at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri Mud Ball tournament on Saturday. The Bladder Splatters won the final game 15-8 in the championship match.

COLUMBIA — Duct tape usually isn’t part of a volleyball outfit, but almost every player wore some at the Mudball 2010 tournament Saturday.

Most of the tape was plain gray, though some people wrapped their feet in hot pink. But the tape wasn’t for show. It kept mud from pulling off the players’ shoes.

“You won’t get two steps without it,” player Jon McQuilkin said as he wrapped his sneakers. “A good rule is to duct tape anything you don’t want to fall off.”

He and about 80 others participated in the fourth annual mud volleyball tournament hosted by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri to raise awareness about its organization.

The group matches children with adults who are willing to spend some time with them and act as a role model, said Kerrie Bloss, the group’s program director.

“It's spending time with kids — go to a Mizzou game, take them to the park, wash your car together," Bloss said. "You integrate them a couple times a month into your life and give them somebody to look up to.”

Michelle Bogowith, a KOMU meteorologist, who played Saturday, is one of these big sisters. Until recently, she was a mentor to 10-year-old Breanna.

“I have a younger brother at home, and I missed that relationship with someone younger,” Bogowith said. “It’s nice to have someone to teach things to, but it’s also nice to learn things from them.” Her connection with the mentoring program meant the volleyball games had a deeper meaning for her, she said.

The event did raise some money for the group, but Bloss said its main purpose is to build awareness. McQuilkin said he doesn’t volunteer for them but came back for a third year because he enjoyed the game so much.

“I’m almost 40 years old, and I don’t get to play in the mud anywhere else,” he said.

The two makeshift volleyball courts that held the match are located behind the Columbia Area Career Center. Before the games began, the field was already torn up, with a few blades of grass sticking through thick clumps of soil. By the end of the day, the court was a thick soup of brown water.

To make sure there was enough mud, the Columbia Fire Department was on hand throughout the day to spray down the field and clean off muddy contestants.

This was the worst part of the game for Alicia Whitson.

“It’s colder than heck,” Whitson said. “And those guys, when they spray you down, they act like they’re putting out a fire.”

For Whitson, this day was about more than just volleyball. She works in Jefferson City with the Children’s Trust Fund, a non-profit group that tries to prevent child abuse and neglect through grants, education and awareness. They often give grants to Big Brothers Big Sisters to support its programs.

“We support them because of the good things they do for the kids of the state of Missouri,” she said.

The tournament, which began at 10 a.m., ended about six hours later with team Bladder Splatters winning two out of three matches against Mud, Sweat and Beers.

“We played hard,” said Michael Elley, Bladder Splatters team captain. “We got mud in our teeth, ears and eyelids. No place on our body was safe.”

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