Dodging for a good cause
Seventh graders Shannon Gilpin (left) and Rachel Madril look for a target during a dodgeball game at Altadena Middle School on Thursday. Homeroom classes form teams for battle.

Altadena Middle School students are dodging balls to make others' Christmas wishes come true. On Nov. 1 students began competing in the school's third annual Dodgeball for Dollars tournament during their academic lab class periods. In this month-long, single-elimination tournament, students can buy up to 10 lives for $1 each, as well as buy teachers to play on their team. A total of nearly $6,500 has been raised this year, almost double the amount raised in 2006. "The money will go to the Kyrene Resource Center," Physical education teacher Mike Smith said. "We buy toys, T-shirts, formula - you name it, we buy it." Smith, who has been teaching P.E. at Altadena for five years, said the idea came to him three years ago after the movie Dodgeball, a comedy staring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, was released. "I thought it would be an easy way to raise money. But for the kids, knowing that they gave, that they did something for somebody else, is what they really get out of it," Smith said. "It might even be the first time for some of these kids. Another thing is I think they become a better homeroom because they are doing something together." For Smith, the most important thing is that the teachers and students make the tournament fundraiser a success. "I just set up the brackets and collect the money," he said. However, Smith's contributions to the school are far from overlooked. "Mr. Smith is one of those teachers who the kids and staff adore," seventh-grade advisor Tiffany Jump said. "He does an amazing amount of things at our school that give us the extras and leave lasting impressions and memories - things that make a difference in people's lives." Students play dodgeball everyday from 10:41 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. except on Wednesdays. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders play each other for 25 minutes at a time and are able to renew their lives at the start of each new game. Nikki Meeker, 13, made sure to buy 10 lives to secure her place on a team, but after being eliminated she now uses her lunch hour to keep score for seventh-grade games. "When it's our lunch hour we come in here and check off their lives when they get out," Meeker, an eighth-grader, said. "I think it's really cool because the money goes to people who can't afford to have a great holiday." Students go all out for games, smearing paint under their eyes and wearing matching team T-shirts. Andrea Calianno's eighth-grade team, Burkhart Bisquik Butter Toast, won their first game and will play again on Nov. 30. "When we play I like knowing I'm raising money for others," she said. "It gives me a good feeling. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or

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