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Breast cancer research was on the hearts and minds of every athlete and supporter of the Side-Out Foundation’s Rock the Pink, Rock the Walk East fundraiser at Turkey Hill Park in La Plata on June 9.

Approximately 85 teams took to the volleyball courts. The Charles County Government and Parks and Recreation were strong supporters in assisting the Side-Out Foundation in deciding on the location for the volleyball tournament and the added walk.

Nila Straka, associate head volleyball coach at the College of Southern Maryland and event co-coordinator, is a six-year breast cancer survivor and said she couldn’t have asked for a better day. The very first walk was added to bring together more support and to add a family atmosphere.

“The walk added a nice element to the event,” Straka said. “We couldn’t have asked for better weather. All in all we had a stronger fundraising support this year. We had 20 walkers sign up. It was a good blend of people who believe in the cause and want to support breast cancer research. I’d like to see that grow. This was the first event with the walk added.”

A total of $13,000 was raised by the event and many sponsors assisted in the cause. Nearly $5 million have been raised in the past four years through Side-Out’s Dig Pink and Rock the Pink events.

Molten Volleyball supplied the awards for winning teams. Other supporters included Sisters at Heart, Pink Ladies of La Plata, Fran’s Nu Image, Lucky Dog Volleyball, Chick-fil-A as well as Cutting Edge Hair Salon, Apple Spice, Pizza Hotline, Hunan Star of La Plata, Sweet Surrenders and Scentsy, a scents and oils independent distribution company.

Sisters at Heart is a breast cancer resource center in Charles County. Fran’s Nu Image, owned by Mimi Quade, is a place women can go for prosthetic and orthotic solutions. Lucky Dog Volleyball sponsored the event with equipment and T-shirts and Cutting Edge Hair Salon had beauticians cutting hair on the spot.

Meghan Wallace, a volleyball player at Grace Christian Academy and her aunt Terri Bruce, who is an independent consultant with Scentsy, raised over $2,000 for the cause.

Twelve first-place teams were awarded. The juniors AA division winners were the ‘Blonettes’ with Ashley Rock and Zoe Van der Bring. Courtney Malott and Sarah Kenneweg won the juniors A division. Paul Kokulis and Griff Baily won the juniors BB division. ‘Dudes in Pink’ with Logan Warrington and Jake Deniston won the juniors B division.

The women’s AA division winners were Kathryn Wright and Rachel Herger. Maria Velarde and Paula Zubieta won the women’s A division. Maureen DuVall and Tiffany Werking teamed up to win the women’s BB/B division. Jermey Vergason and his teammate, whose full name was not provided by press time, won the men’s AA/A division. David Antunes and Jonathan Antunes won the men’s BB/B division.

Sam Danai and Christina Nash took home first place in the coed AA division and Whitney Maymon and Rakesh Chilakapati won the coed A division. Jenny Cheung and Jun Kim rounded out the winning in the coed BB/B division.

La Plata head volleyball coach Catherine Lavery volunteered for the event.

“I would love to run that tournament every year,” Lavery said. “It is such a wonderful sight to see all ages playing volleyball weather just for fun or for the competition. Morris Davis, St. Mary’s College of Maryland [head] volleyball coach was there playing with his 9-year-old daughter Bailey. They had so much fun with each other plus they spent quality time together. I enjoyed watching everyone play and have a great time. Even the dogs had fun walking and playing in the dog park.”

Lavery said that volleyball used to be very popular in Charles County 10 years ago.

“I am hoping the rage will return and we can fill our gyms with volleyball players of all ages,” Lavery said.