Cold dodgeball game draws a crowd

The girls team awaits to do battle in the 24-Hour Group Challenge dodgeball game Monday afternoon...

The girls team awaits to do battle in the 24-Hour Group Challenge dodgeball game Monday afternoon in Port Robinson Park. The event which drew a few dozen participants and hundreds of spectators benefited Thorold man Matt Risi, who's receiving costly treatment to battle Lyme disease. (GREG FURMINGER/Tribune Staff)

Greg Furminger, The Tribune

, Last Updated: 12:30 AM ET

WELLAND. Ont. -- Andrew Sandlac had no reservations about stripping down to his underwear in front of hooting and hollering strangers Monday afternoon.

In sub-zero temperatures and snow. To play dodgeball.

“It was nice — and cold,” the 32-year-old Niagara Falls man quipped. “But I think the ref cheated.”

Sandlac was among about four dozen people — mostly guys — who participated in the The 24-Hour Group Challenge for Matt Risi staged in Port Robinson Park.


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The event capped off a series of Facebook video challenges in which people were to do a crazy activity I the snow in as little clothes as possible, chug a beer (or other beverage) then invite three people to do something similar.

“I was nominated by a friend and I thought why not, it’s for a good cause,” Sandlac said of his participation in Monday’s game.

As of Sunday night $32,300 had been raised toward Risi’s treatment for chronic Lyme disease at the Sponaugle Wellness Institute in Florida.

He was receiving treatment Monday afternoon and could not be reached by a reporter. But in a Saturday post on his Facebook page, he wrote: “I owe so much to you all and the kind words of support and monetary donations have been completely up-lifting.”

When the 24-Hour Challenge was started by a group from Thorold and Niagara Falls Feb. 3, there was about $18,000 in the account for Risi and his family, said Heather Lavigne, one of the organizers.

“They’ve seen donations from as far as Poland,” she said.

Lavigne has been blown away by how far the video challenges have spread, some that include snow angels made while wearing bikinis, and drums and guitars played in boxers.

“Some were funny, but some also stood out as dangerous, which we didn’t want associated with a fundraiser,” she said, making specific mention of a man who plunged into a hole in an ice-covered river and swam up from another opening.

Funds were raised at the park Monday through sales of “24-Hour Challenge Complete” T-shirts and tuques like the one Sean St. George wore stating “No time for Lyme.”

The 41-year-old St. Catharines man admitted he “chickened out” when he was nominated to do a video, but was determined to save face Monday, under a sunny sky and in slightly warmer temperatures than previous days.

“It’s for a good cause, why not?” he said before stripping down to his undershorts.

His 14-hear-old stepson Brandon Bijakowski joined him on the playing field covered in deep snow and as more than 150 people looked on.

“It was a riot. It was cold, though.” St. George said.

Jocelyn Whitty said she’d do it again.

“I have done the 24-Hour Challenge so many times it was just another way of doing it,” said the 14-year-old. “It’s fun. We’re Canadians.”

The Port Robinson teen also remarked on the beehive of activity in her community Monday.

“It’s the biggest amount of people we’ve had in quite a few years,” she said, giving exception fr when the community has held street dances.

Risi, a 26-year-old Thorold man, has been coping with Lyme disease for the past decade, ever since he was bitten by a black-legged tick when he was in Grade 10. His treatment is expected to cost about $80,000.

Donations can still be made by clicking here.

greg.furminger@sunmedia.ca


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