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No losers at charity mud volleyball tournament

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — We journalists certainly aren’t known for our athletic abilities.

But during Saturday’s Mudd Volleyball tournament benefiting the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital Foundation, my team and I proved to them all that we are, in fact, among the very worst.

Several of my colleagues and I, “The Muckrakers,” won just one of our five games against – get this – the other team from the Journal.

“I’ve definitely been humbled today,” one of my colleagues muttered after our fourth match, crushed by “Doreen’s Team #2.”

Mud volleyball players on the “Mucha Lucha” team, including Irvin Marizcal, bottom left, Alexis Morales, center, and Manuel Pardo wrestle in the mud after winning a match at the 24th annual Carrie Tingley Mudd Volleyball tournament in Albuquerque on Saturday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

It took me back to my primary school P.E. days, that feeling of dread sinking into the pit of my stomach, as the ball, as if in slow motion, careered through the air before I spastically slapped it to the ground right in front of me or smashed my glasses into the bridge of my nose, should I miss completely.

It became clear, though, as the day went on, that everyone loosened up, either by way of beer or just being outside under the sun on a beautiful Albuquerque day.

Or maybe it was the idea that we were all there to benefit one of the state’s most altruistic causes.

The Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital Foundation has helped countless New Mexican children with special needs, some 20,000 of them a year, providing everything from special medical equipment to adaptive recreational sports programs.

Children like 10-year-old Brody Weisz of Albuquerque, who rides with the Foundation’s Zia Free Wheelers handcycling team.

“They help me with hand position on my bike, making things easier for me,” Weisz said. “They are a great group to ride with.” Brody told me he was wary of getting into the muddy pits where games are played, since he had worn brand new shoes to the event. But he was still having an absolute blast.

“This is really fun,” he said.

When I learned of the tournament earlier this week and that it raises around $500,000 every year, I was taken aback.

Surely, there’s an extra zero there?

Not so, said tournament chair Phil Prevender.

“We’ve raised over $500,000 every year for the last nine years,” Prevender said, $9 million since the event’s inception in 1995. “It’s the state’s largest, single-day fundraising event.”

From left, Reylynn Maez, Francella Jojola and Christina Martinez cheer on their team, “Hecho en Mudd,” during the 24th annual Carrie Tingley Mudd Volleyball tournament. This is the fifth year the team has competed in the event. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

That half-a-milllion dollars makes up more than half of the Foundation’s budget, Prevender said.

Its first year saw 48 teams play on 12 courts, and it continues to grow.

On Saturday, in addition to the lowly Muckrakers, 467 teams totaling 6,000 to 7,000 people played inside 78 mud-filled courts on a vacant lot in southwest Albuquerque.

And though the Muckrakers joined the vast majority of the teams there in ultimately losing, there was really no way to leave as anything but a winner.

“It all goes to the kids right here in New Mexico,” Prevender said.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment director to Maddy Hayden at 505-823-3881, mhayden@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @ Maddy_J_Hayden. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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