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Servin For A Cause: Younger generation behind success of volleyball fundraiser

Participants and organizers gather around at last year’s Servin for A Cause event. Among those pictured are Bernadette Singer, Rick Stang, Laura Shriver, Ryan Stang, Derek Miller, Elizabeth Sellari, Steve Smith, Tina Rupik, Gus Mcananey, Erik Hartman, Trev Durni, Luke Brostko, Jay Battista, Jess Serllari, Doug Szczepanksi, Bill Gallardo, Kim Matuszak, Evan Thompson, Jack Keefe, Sara Keefe, TJ Burke, Matt Giacomini, Laura Buerger and Jenea Castanza-Smith, most of whom are Hamburg residents.

This year's event slated for Sunday, Aug. 19

Ryan Stang is proud that he represents a younger generation of Western New Yorkers stepping up to make a difference in the community.

But the Frontier High School graduate gets even more satisfaction out of seeing the impact that his efforts and that of those around him have made for the less fortunate.

His biggest contribution to the community has been helping create the idea for Servin For A Cause, a fundraiser that incorporates playing co-ed volleyball during an all-day outing at the Dock at the Bay on Route 5.

As the event approaches its fourth year with the 2012 version to take place Sunday, Aug. 19, this endeavor has raised nearly $50,000. Most of that money has gone to the Kelly for Kids Foundation, which was founded by Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly to provide support for disabled and disadvantaged children in Western New York.

“This event was created based on young individuals feeling they have the capability to do something big and do something for kids,” said the 27-year-old Stang, who partnered with friend, Laura Shriver, in bringing this idea to fruition. “We didn’t know what we were doing at the beginning, but we’ve developed these relationships with local companies and businesses to make this work.”

Stang attributes the popularity of the event to combining sports, entertainment and a social gathering with a cause that everyone in the community can get behind. Volleyball was chosen as the sport to be played in an attempt to incorporate both sexes and all levels of play. It’s also quite the popular sport in the area and on local beaches. Shriver is more of the volleyball player of the two event creators, Stang noted.

The two have also helped create quite the party out of the event with open bar and food from local establishments, entertainment with a pair of popular DJs and a chance to enter a silent auction and ticket raffles for some popular sports memorabilia. Participants also receive a T-shirt. All of that for what he believes is an extremely reasonable $30.

“We’ve created something that everyone can partake in and they can have a good time no matter what level they play at,” said Stang, who noted that participants do not have to play volleyball. “This is such a tight-knit community and they know when they see something good. You actually have something to do besides just being at a bar and eating food. People can have fun competing for a great cause. And even if you’re not playing volleyball, you can still have a good time.”

He and many of the organizers may be young but they’ve all been willing to use their networking and social skills to organize something special.

“I don’t have a specific reason for having done this, other than I know I’m capable of doing it and I want to see our community strong,” the Hamburg resident said. “It’s nice to see what we’re capable of when we all come together as a family.”

Originally Stang had teamed up with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, but he went to the Kelly for Kids Foundation so that the funds go directly to children in the same community in which he grew up and lives.

“This way the money stays home for our neighbors in need,” Stang noted. “Every ounce of energy we put into this goes to our community.”
Servin For A Cause will take place Sunday, Aug. 19 at the Dock at the Bay.

Besides the volleyball tournament, which begins with registration from 10 to 11 a.m., the main attractions include a four-hour open bar starting at noon, food provided by Kaz’s Pizzeria in Hamburg and an outstanding assortment of items in the silent and ticket auction including professional memorabilia such as signed jerseys from Robert Griffin III, Drew Brees, Mario Williams and Stephone Gilmore. DJ Drop D and Kiss 98.5’s DJ Anthony will be entertaining and Kelly is expected to make an appearance.

Stang said he and Shriver are in debt to the around 40 volunteers that show up to set up and run the event. They’ll need all the help possible this year as the 2012 event is slated to be the biggest yet.

A few weeks before the event, already 20 teams were signed up with registration still open the day of the event. Stang expects more than 300 players to take part as the demand for registration is at its highest this year. Individual players can also attend and will be assigned a team by a blind draw.

The ECC women’s volleyball team sets up the volleyball tournament and its players officiate the matches. The last three years, the ECC program has run a smooth tournament even as the number of teams expand.

Kats head coach Craig Starzynski, who is a friend of Stangs and also a Frontier High School graduate, sees this as an opportunity for his players to be a part of a community effort in an environment that’s more geared to having fun than being competitive.

“We all have really enjoyed it,” Starzynski said. “The girls got to be part of the community and involved in something for a good cause. The event has grown every year, so it’s not always easy to keep everyone happy, but we do the best we can and our athletes keep everything running smooth.”

Stang credits his many sponsors at all levels of giving for taking notice that what they’re doing is important. He’s as confident and ready for this event as he’s ever felt.

For more information or to register a team, call Stang at 903-6608 or re-mail him at stang3486@gmail.com.
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