CEDAR GROVE,NJ - Cedar Grove High School is the place to be on Thursday night as the CGHS sport management class hosts the 2nd  Annual Orange Invitational Volleyball Tournament with all proceeds going to Verona's Team Zoey.

In its second year, the college credit Sport Management class through Syracuse University, requires students to host a fundraising event that benefits the local community -- so the school wide Orange Invitational Volleyball Tournament was born. 

"We are doing this for a great cause so if we have outreach from the community it will really have an impact for Team Zoey,"  said senior Shane Benson.  "Not to mention it is going to be a great event.  Working behind the scenes, I wish I was one of these kids that gets to attend because the stuff we’re going to provide from the food to the entertainment to the competition -- it’s going to be awesome."

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Last year the tournament raised money for a new sound system for CGHS.  Senior Mikayla Hom said the class first considered raising money for something similar, but then thought maybe something more charitable would be good.  Junior Melanie Kelly suggested Team Zoey, which is a foundation that raises money for progeria research and is named after Zoey Penny.  Zoey is a second-grader at Verona’s Forest Avenue Elementary school who was diagnosed with the rapid-aging disease progeria at a young age.  Progeria affects about one in 20 million people, according to the Progeria Research Foundation.

"Verona is often referred to as our "rivals" when it comes to sports," said senior Haley Diess.  "So it's great to get both crowds together for once, all for a good cause.  It's going to be fun."

As part of the event, students must recruit local sponsors and work with those sponsors hand in hand to ensure they get maximum exposure.  Many of the students agree, that soliciting sponsors has been the most challenging part of the class, but also provided valuable real-world experience. 

"I think interacting with so many people, going out and getting real world experience is the best part of the class.  It’s like this is a real job position and you need to go out and talk to people," said junior Emily Faziola.  "I thought it was such a good opportunity and something we’d never do on our own or in any other class."

"Going out to get sponsors -- it’s a lot of rejection.  That’s probably been the hardest part because you go out and you ask them and they say they can give you a gift card but they can’t do the sponsorship,"  Diess explained.  "Each group in the class has to get $1000 in sponsors so everybody has been going out and talking to these people walking up and down Bloomfield Ave and Pompton Ave and trying to get sponsors.  It’s really been a challenge."

In addition to the sponsorship, the class has also planned the event from start to finish and they alone are responsible for working the event on Thursday night.  Some of the students have plans to pursue sport management in college, others are interested in event planning and others were looking to explore a possible career path while also earning college credit.

"I like sports so this class was interesting to me and I thought the college credits were a big benefit," said senior Ava Fernandez.  "I’ve also been trying to look into other things that I might be interested in pursuing so I thought I’d take sport management and see how it was."

Benson said the event was a big part of why he took the class.  He became interested while competing in it last year.  Faziola was also inspired by last year's event.  

"Last year I saw how much the students loved planning the event and I love planning things in general.  It's what I want to go into so I thought this would be a great opportunity," Faziola said.  "You see the outcome but you don’t see the hard work that each student puts into it and I wanted to get that point of view."

The class of 20 students is divided into five groups, each of which has a captain.  Part of the learning experience is working cooperatively and figuring out each others strengths and weaknesses.  Fernandez noted that if someone is shy, you wouldn't necessarily ask them to do the talking when seeking sponsors.  Benson noted that some students who are artistic have contributed by making posters for donation boxes and others who know graphic arts have created advertising -- they capitalize on everyone's strengths.  

All of the students interviewed highly recommended the class, noting it is like none other offered at CGHS.  

"It's just a great experience to be able to plan this huge event.  Some people get to do that in college, but we get the experience in high school and we get to bring what Mr. Cardinale teaches us to college," Diess said.  "I feel like we’re going to have an advantage over some of the other kids because we’ve done it before.  It’s definitely a great experience and I would totally recommend it to every single junior."

The class would like to have $7,000 raised before tournament starts, with the hopes of raising an additional $3,000 through raffles and concessions.  Raffles include signed sports memorabilia and sports tickets.  Sweetberry Bowls and Sip n' Swirl will both be on hand selling their treats.  In addition to the volleyball competition, the Orange Invitational also offers fan experiences like knock out and a hockey shoot out.

The Orange Invitational is Thursday at 7 p.m. (SNOW DATE OF Friday) at the Cedar Grove High School gym located at 90 Rugby Road, Cedar Grove.  Tickets are $5 for students and $7 per adults, and can be purchased by emailing cardinale.joseph@cgschools.org or can be purchased at the door.  

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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