The opening bars of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” blared through the speakers in the Kenai Central High School gym where members of the girls volleyball team gave last-minute instructions to a group of boys hockey and basketball players — how to set, how to spike, how to serve.
The task seemed monumental as player after player missed the ball, buried it in the net or walked away after misjudging the timing on a set.
“This is why I play a real sport,” said one hockey player before missing three sets in a row.
Then, the lunch bell rang Thursday and more than a hundred students paid a $1 to get into the gym to watch the two teams duke it out to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines about a month ago.
It was game time. There was a distinct lack of technique on both teams, though the boys basketball team eventually won, several players collided, hammer-fists sent the ball sailing far out of bounds and into the crowd, and questionable maneuvers gorilla-like posturing slowed the game after each successful volley. The gym rang with laughter and disbelieving shouts as the boys learned the hard way that you can’t spike a serve, punch the ball or forget to yell “mine” when chasing.
The boys basketball team won the right to play the girls varsity volleyball team during Friday’s lunch period. The boys lost, but raised around $200 for typhoon relief through their efforts.
“We were thinking of stuff that we could do to help and something that would attract a lot of people,” said Jazshe Nushart, senior.
The athletes also considered playing basketball on the ice, she said.
The school’s leadership class masterminded the games after hearing that students in the school had family and friends who had been directly affected by the typhoon.
Justin Carr, the leadership teacher, said the group is also planning a Feb. 15 garage sale.
Nushart spearheaded the idea of the sale; the leadership class will begin planning after the Christmas break.
Despite the lighthearted nature of the game itself, it resonated with John Aguilar, 16, whose family is from the Bicol Province — a portion of the largest island in the Phillipines.
“It got my heart warm,” he said Friday.
The young senior said he had told Carr how he had been affected by the typhoon but had not expected to hear about the fundraiser.
Aguilar, who is fluent in English but sometimes struggled to find the words to explain how he felt following the typhoon, said the idea that students would arrange a large event to benefit his home country filled him with positive energy.
“I was pretty surprised actually,” he said. “I didn’t think that many people would show up,”
That energy was palpable throughout the school in advance of the game, Nushart said.
“I’m in second hour with one basketball player and two hockey players and the whole time they’re just like, ‘We’re going to ruin you in this game.’ It was out of control,” she said with a grin. “They would stop class talking about it, it was insane. By the time that the game came around they were so ready for it. The hockey team was like, ‘This is our game,’ the basketball team just ruined them. It was impressive.”
The teasing was much less apparent during the Friday game as the volleyball players seemed determined to defend their sport, Nushart said.
“It started out neck and neck throughout the entire game,” Nushart said.
The boys had no coordination.
“But they were just so quick and on it. Toward the end, every single serve was an out and every single block ended up in the net,” she said. “Toward the end the girls just dominated.”
Aguilar said he thought students connected well with the idea of a disaster happening in a remote area because Alaska was remote.
“We have the smallest road system in all of the U.S., it would be really worse,” he said.
The devastating affects of Haiyan — widely reported as one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit land — are still difficult to see, he said.
“I just greatly wanted to go home,” he said. “I just want to help out.”
For Nushart, who is not personally connected to the hurricane, the urge to help is still strong.
She said the community should understand that it is possible to do something to help others, even if the scale of a disaster seems insurmountable.
“Don’t just sit there and think, ‘Oh I don’t know how to make it happen,’ you can talk to somebody and make it happen,” she said. “I talked to Mr. Carr about my idea and he thought it was a great idea and next year it’s happening. It’s a really good feeling.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org.