QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Queensbury High School Junior Kaliyah Davis had volleyball in her life before she was even playing in the school team where she’s now a captain.
Before joining the junior varsity and high school teams, she would watch her older sister play, and help out where she could at the annual game that’s been a lynchpin for the school for well over a decade.
Now, over the weekend she played for the fourth year in a row in the Power of Pink volleyball tournament, an effort to raise money for breast cancer research that always hits close to home for the many families that make up the school district.
“It’s a great cause, I feel like,” Davis said. “My nana just recently passed away from brain cancer, and I know there are other people on the team whose families have dealt with breast cancer as well.”
On Saturday, Queensbury welcomed teams from 20 other schools in the surrounding area to play and raise a total of over $36,000 for the Side-Out Foundation, a Virginia-based center researching stage 4 breast cancer.
The crowd of kids playing on Saturday was smaller than it’s been – some years inviting as many as 31 teams and raising as much as $50,000 – but the annual fundraiser has grown far from where it started.
Queensbury girls volleyball coach Tyler Carey has been organizing the Power of Pink games since their inception in 2007.
“We had a few coaches on campus who had survived breast cancer, and they asked every team to do a Power of Pink event of some kind – a match or something to raise awareness,” Carey recounted.
That awareness was raised in the first year through a cancer walk benefitting the American Cancer Society, who the school went on to benefit in their annual games until the society’s Queensbury office closed in 2017.
Meanwhile, the school was already hosting tournaments with other schools; more and more coming on as the school added more volleyball courts. It currently has eight, six of which were part of last weekend’s game.
What support looks like
The fundraising is usually a year-long effort. After the game was called off due to COVID-19 last year, though, things were a bit uncertain.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to have a game this year or not,” said Davis. “We didn’t know until not long before school started, so I think being able to raise over $7,000 in that time frame is really great.”
Queensbury’s team ended up losing in their division’s quarterfinals this year, a result Carey chalked up to general fatigue during a long day of games. But they came in first in money raised, clocking in at over $7,000.
The Queensbury volleyball team held a bottle drive, and sold calendars where donors could “buy” a day. They also held raffles at the tournament and had a direct donation link alongside the 20 other schools listed on Side-Out’s website.
Every year, the games recognize someone – a faculty member or a member of a local family – struggling with cancer. It’s a rallying cry for the community, and also a way to recognize the everyday battle that anyone with cancer goes through.
This year, that rallying cry was personal for Carey.
“My own mother was diagnosed in March,” he recounts, “as was the mother of one of the girls on my team. Fortunately, they were both 1A breast cancer cases, both had surgery and are now in remission, but it became a very personal thing.”
In welcoming other schools across Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties and beyond, Carey has seen a lot of effort poured into fundraising. Although Queensbury typically performs well, it’s many of the smaller schools that catch his eye most; places where that annual rallying cry is heard loudest.
One Queensbury teacher who came to Carey’s mind lives in the small Washington County town of Hartford. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a community a fraction the size of Queensbury swelled in support of one of their own.
“Her whole school – tiny little Hartford, which has maybe 20 or 30 kids who graduate every year – they end up raising two or three thousand dollars.”
Whether the community is large or small, there’s always someone in need. Following Saturday’s game, Carey is already thinking ahead to Power of Pink 2022.
Now that a game next year feels like a certainty again, he’s got some ideas.
“We went to a tournament in Ravena where they had food trucks,” he said, “and I thought, what a great idea, we could have food trucks along our bus loop.”
Meanwhile, Davis has one more year playing to go, and her mother, Brandi Warner, has one more year of being among the parents who help organize.
She plans to hold a sendoff to her daughter, and the other graduating seniors, and hand her pink planning binder off to the next generation of parents to come together for cancer survivors everywhere.