Awkwardly adjusting their goggles and tightly gripping their rackets, squash novices scurried around the courts as they played in the SquashBusters fundraising event on December 15.
Members of Andover Boys Varsity Squash, along with several alumni and Head of School John Palfrey, taught Andover community members to play squash in three consecutive hour-long open sessions. Participants made optional donations to the SquashBusters program, a community service project that brings volunteers from the Andover and Brooks varsity squash teams to mentor Lawrence middle school students both on and off the court.
Three sessions were designated for a specific demographic of participants. The first hour was open to children of Andover faculty and staff members. The second hour was designated for faculty and staff members themselves. The third hour was open the the Andover student body, said Tom Hodgson, Head Coach of Boys Varsity Squash and Director of Andover Squash.
The following Sunday, four teams competed in a casual benefit tournament at Brooks. “MashUp” hosted the “Andover Academics,” the “Essex Country Nick,” the “Lawrence Legion” and the “Merrimack Volley.” Each team included one world-class player, five amateurs, one Brooks School or Andover student and one SquashBusters student.
The weekend events raised a total of $249,133.
“Each amateur promised to try to raise $1,500, and more if they could,” said Hodgson. The Van Otterloo family and another anonymous donor agreed to match the donations up to $75,000.
“The SquashBusters weekend included my favorite two days of fundraising I’ve ever been involved with. What could be better than getting to play squash with fun adults and kids, all for a great cause?” said Head of School John Palfrey in an email to The Phillipian.
Andover Boys Squash Captain Jake Raugh ’14 said that the amount of money raised greatly exceeded his expectations.
“They’re using [the proceeds] to continue the program. They need it to pay their expenses like buses and coaches,” said Rauh, who has been involved with the program since the Andover chapter was established in 2012.
The first 90 minutes of SquashBusters sessions are spent playing squash, while the second half is used entirely for academics. During the academics portion, Andover students do their best to help students arrive at answers and to teach better problem-solving abilities.
“In the beginning it was new for both the kids and me, and so I was very much their teacher, but I think it gradually changed from that teacher-student relationship to me being someone they could trust and confide in,” said Misha Hooda ’14, a member of Girls Varsity Squash.
Hodgson said, “The goal [of Squashbusters] is to expand the number of students [from 36] to 90 from Lawrence, and then follow them from sixth grade right to a high school team, but to do that we’re going to need more courts, and we’re hoping to build more.”
Madeleine Mayhew ’15, Girls Varsity Squash Co-Captain and Squash busters volunteer, said, “the idea is that through squash you can improve character, and instill values of discipline, perseverance, respect and compassion both on and off the squash court. It’s an outlet for the kids.”
Beyond homework help, volunteers aid in other academic pursuits, such as studying for the SSAT, according to Mayhew.
The SquashBusters program was founded in West Roxbury in 1996 as an organization devoted to the athletic and personal development of urban youth through squash. The Lawrence chapter is the most recent addition to the program.