With the help of dozens of people who have had a hand creating the Wildcats’ rich and storied volleyball tradition for the last 35 years, the first-ever Williamsport Alumni Volleyball event became a reality, with all the proceeds benefiting the Samantha Kelly Memorial Fund.
Kelly was an All-County standout for Williamsport’s volleyball and tennis programs from 2008 until her life was cut short by an auto accident that also claimed the life of classmate Brendon Colliflower last May.
“This is just something that’s indescribable,” said Kelly’s mother, Jonna Vinci. “Hearing what everyone says about Sam, and it’s all positive, that helps me. I just want to keep her memory alive.”
That’s where the Samantha Kelly Memorial Fund comes in. Vinci said the fund would provide a $1,000 college scholarship each year for four years to a Williamsport athlete, based on academics. There are plans to eventually build a local sports complex to host youth tournaments in volleyball and boys soccer.
“We traveled so many miles to go to so many events (for Sam and her younger brother Jack), and with the number of people here in this area, we think a facility like that would really benefit the area,” Vinci said.
Janet Gigeous, through the Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund, contributed $3,500 to the Kelly fund on Saturday.
Gigeous is the mother of Adenhart, who was a pitcher at Williamsport in 2003-04 and for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008-’09 before he was killed in an auto accident in Fullerton, Calif., in April 2009.
“This is all about remembering Sam, playing a game she loved in a place where she impacted a lot of people,” Gigeous said. “That’s why I’m here and why it was most important to come.”
The money donated to the Kelly fund was raised at the Nick Adenhart Memorial 5K in Williamsport in June.
“Our strategy with the (Adenhart) fund is to keep the money raised in a certain community in that community,” Gigeous said. “That’s not just the strategy here, but in other places Nick played.”
“We have this fund and we know what we want to do to give back to the community, so (Gigeous’) help is amazing,” Vinci said. “Unfortunately, we have something to share, but it’s another Williamsport community member helping out. ... It’s been amazing how the community has responded, and you don’t see that until, unfortunately, something like this happens.”
Gigeous, Vinci and current Williamsport volleyball coach Emily Crabtree were teammates on the 1980 team that reached the Maryland Class B (now Class 2A) state final. Gigeous and Crabtree also played on the 1981 squad that won the Wildcats’ first of 12 state championships.
They all took part in the 1980s game, which opened the afternoon’s festivities. It was the first time Gigeous and Vinci had seen each other since high school.
“Reconnecting was the best part,” Gigeous said. “I’ve seen people I haven’t seen since graduation, and it was neat to play with them. It all comes back to you, their tendencies and everything.”
“Our biggest response was from the old ladies. There were 30 who signed up for the 80s game,” Crabtree said. “It was a lot of fun, but I’m sure they’ll be saying something different tomorrow.”
Coaches Cindy Neugebauer (six championships from 1981 to 1992), Kristi Gee (two championships in 1999 and 2002) and Crabtree (four championships in 1995 and 2003, ’04 and ’05) were all on hand, with Crabtree and Gee coaching teams throughout the afternoon.
“It’s just really cool to be part of a tight-knit community which supports each other,” Crabtree said. “There are people here who have no connection to volleyball but are here because they’re part of the community. The volleyball tradition is just a small part of that, but it brought a lot of people here together today.
“At the end of the 80s game, I asked for all the mothers who had daughters playing, either here or somewhere else, to come down for a photo. Seeing all the mothers and daughters together and seeing the different generations, that was really neat.”