KSU dodgeball club holds fundraiser for founder with leukemia

Cassandra+Weaver%2C+one+of+the+captains+on+Kent+State%E2%80%99s+dodgeball+club%2C+stands+with+the+winning+team%2C+Old+Guyz%2C+of+the+dodgeball+tournament+fundraiser+for+alumni+member+Matthew+Kelsey.

Cassandra Weaver, one of the captains on Kent State’s dodgeball club, stands with the winning team, “Old Guyz”, of the dodgeball tournament fundraiser for alumni member Matthew Kelsey.

Cameron Hoover

The Kent State dodgeball club held a fundraiser at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center March 18 to raise money for Matthew Kelsey, an alumni and founding member of the club.

In December 2016, Kelsey was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rare form of cancer, with only about 200,000 diagnosed cases per year.

Kelsey, who is a volunteer firefighter at the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department and an emergency department technician with St. Clair Hospital, was diagnosed after he felt ill while working at the hospital and a colleague suggested running some tests.

Nick Fantozzi, another founding member of the dodgeball club, came up with the idea for the fundraiser to help raise money for Kelsey’s treatment.

Fantozzi said the dodgeball team originally started in 2002. Each Friday at 3 p.m. he and Kelsey would knock on doors down their hallway looking for players.

“(Kelsey) was one of the original guys here every Friday, so when we found out he had leukemia, we were like, ‘What’s one of the best ways to help him out?’ ” Fantozzi said. “I figured it’d be a good way to raise money and see everybody back together.”

Saturday’s tournament included games of six versus six. Each team paid a $50 fee to participate, while spectators could watch for $3. All profits went toward Kelsey.

Participating teams were made up of Kent State dodgeball alumni, members of the current dodgeball club, faculty teams and teams from other universities like Ohio University and The University of Akron.

“We just wanted to come and help out,” said Jennifer McClune, a freshman mechanical engineering major at Ohio University. “It’s really cool seeing other teams come. It’s a lot cooler that more groups were able to come together for one reason.”

Cassandra Weaver, one of the captains on Kent State’s current dodgeball club, did most of the planning for the fundraiser. She pointed out that the current state of Kent State dodgeball wouldn’t be possible without the original efforts of Kelsey.

“(Kelsey and Fantozzi) created (the club) from just playing (dodgeball), to being a student organization, to then a club sport,” she said. “He helped make the team what it is today, allowing us to do it. He was a big help in creating and starting up the team back in ‘02.”

Kelsey had a chemotherapy session for his leukemia Saturday afternoon and couldn’t make it to the tournament.

“I wanted him to be able to hand the plaque to the first place team, but chemo is more important,” Weaver said. “I’m still hoping to drive the check to him, or if we don’t have time, then we’ll just put it in his GoFundMe account.”

Weaver said she had two main goals for the fundraiser: to raise awareness and money for Kelsey’s chemotherapy treatments and to raise awareness about the Kent State dodgeball club, which she said not many know about.

“I’m an exercise science major, and we’ve talked about diseases like diabetes and hypertension, but we just kind of say ‘cancer,’ ” she said. “We don’t specifically (mention the different kinds of cancer). I still had to look it up to see what exactly (Kelsey’s leukemia) is and how exactly it was brought up.”

Along with the participation and spectator fees, the fundraiser also got proceeds from a 50/50 raffle. Prizes included donated gift cards from local restaurants, including Fresco, Pizzafire and Panini’s.

“Everyone was so willing to donate to (the fundraiser),” Weaver said. “I just couldn’t understand how so many people would be so willing to do it, but it made the process much easier.”

When all was said and done the “Old Guyz,” a team made up of Kent State dodgeball alumni, won the tournament. A total of $776 was raised for Kelsey’s medical bills.

Fantozzi said the idea for the fundraiser is the least that he could do for his former teammate.

“(Kelsey)’s a volunteer fireman. He also works in a hospital. He’s spent his life helping people. Now it’s our turn to help him out.”

Cameron Hoover is a general assignment reporter, contact him at [email protected]