Dodge for a Cause

Top Row (left to right): Joe Ballard ‘16, Jacob Diaz ‘16, Bennett Antes ‘17, Nick Chavez ‘16, Don Welsh ‘16, Marcus Gray ‘16, Mike Haynes ‘17 (all from Bellarmine)

Bottom Row (left to right): Milan Williams ‘17, Anika Kumar ‘17, Nicole Nelson ‘17, Kate Fuell ‘16, Alexis Carles ‘17, Jessica Drogy ‘16


A dodgeball tournament does not seem like an everyday event for an all girls’ high school, but the 7th Annual JW House Student Board “DodJe BraWl” was a hit for Notre Dame.

JW Knapen was a Bellarmine student a few years ago and JW was diagnosed with brain cancer over Thanksgiving break his freshman year. He was given a couple of months to live, but surpassed his life-expectancy and passed away the summer before his senior year. His loving parents were driving to and from the hospital everyday, so, JW wanted to create a place for families of patients to go when a loved one was in the hospital. And alas, the JW House was born–it sits on the Santa Clara Kaiser Permanente grounds.

In efforts to keep the spirit of JW alive, the JW House has created a student board consisting of 6 Notre Dame girls and 7 Bellarmine boys that meet monthly to plan fundraisers for the House. One of these events was the 7th Annual DodJe BraWl tournament.

The tournament featured approximately 20 teams ranging from high school students to adults and there was even a team formed of all Notre Dame moms. With an entrance fee of $10 and with lots of donations, the student board brought in over $2,000. The teams played “Round Robin” style, and played 2 matches in each game. A positive attitude filled the atmosphere and teams were having a blast playing dodge ball. Each team was allowed to pick their own name and some were very creative–for example, one team (players: Noora Fawzi ‘17, Elena Ajluni ‘17, Emma Tillman ‘17, Jacob Minic ‘18 from Bellarmine, and 2 juniors from Lincoln High School) named their team “Duck Forest Duck” like “run forrest run” from the movie, Forrest Gump.

The varsity basketball team at Notre Dame had their own team and showed up in themed onesies and sunglasses, and were a force to be reckoned with (see picture below). Overall, the event was a success and all proceeds went to an excellent cause.

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From left to right: Abby Walsh’18, Bella Walsh ‘18, Misa Fuji ‘17, Chiara Cantos ‘19, Palak Shah ‘17, Amanda Straka ‘17, Anjali Pursai ‘18, Claire Lane ‘16.

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When asked the question, “Why is working with the JW House Student Board important to you?” the board members responded:

“Inspiring young adults to give back to their community will create a next generation of social justice advocates that act for change!” -Milan Williams ‘17

“Giving families the opportunity to be with their loved ones in a time of need makes me feel like putting in hours of work and is all worth it in the end.” -Alexis Carles ‘17

“I work at the JW house because I love what the organization does for those with loved ones in the nearby hospital…having been in a situation where My family and I needed an organization like the JW House drew me to working on the student board.” -Marcus Gray ‘16 from Bellarmine

“I have had personal experience of what it’s like to have a family member in the hospital and how it can negatively affect those who are around. Being able to aid people while also having fun with friends is a really amazing opportunity and one of the greatest decisions of my life.” -Nick Chavez ‘16 from Bellarmine

“The JW house provides open arms to those who most need it and being on the board allows me to carry on JW’s message of compassion and resiliency, and be a supporter to those who receive little to no support.” -Nicole Nelson ‘17

“Working on the JW house is important to me because I get to see the board’s work truly pay off when we visit and hold fundraisers with families that attend the JW house.” -Bennett Antes ‘17 from Bellarmine

“Providing families with a place to stay when their loved ones are in the hospital is often something people overlook…seeing these families with no help or place to go is what drives my passion for the jw house and is the reason I do what I do.” -Jessica Drogy ‘16

“It is important to me because of JW’s amazing story of never giving up, his incredible family, and because of the goal of helping families through incredibly tough times.” -Jacob Diaz ‘16 from Bellarmine

“I am grateful to be on the board because I am able to spread awareness and financially support this wonderful cause and community.” -Mike Haynes ‘17 from Bellarmine

“I had a close family member contract stage 4 cancer, and I experienced first-hand the hardship of having to visit him in the hospital, and being so far from him at all times. I joined the JW House Student Board to make sure families weren’t separated from their loved ones in times of need, as I was.” -Kate Fuell ‘16

“The JW house is important to me because it’s one of those causes where you get to directly see the impact that you have in the lives of people. I serve on a ton of different committees and the JW house is just so rewarding because you know there is a tangible difference in the lives of the people that you see every single time you set foot into the house.” -Joe Ballard ’16 from Bellarmine

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