When Keystone Regional Volleyball Association Commissioner Michelle Carlton sees an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a cause, the light gets bright very quickly. The inaugural Keystone Rally Event in Harrisburg in December 2017 was much more than a new boys' event where 60 teams representing Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New York competed. It was a place for adults to play, a place for new referees to be outfitted and trained, and a place where able-bodied athletes could watch the incredible talents of the USA Men's Sitting Volleyball team as they volleyed on a demo court throughout the day.
"I think it's important for the entire volleyball community to support the sitting team and to understand that their Olympic efforts are as intense as non-Paralympic sports," Carlton said.
Former USA Men’s Sitting Volleyball team captain Brent Rasmussen was happy to accept Carlton's invitation to play in Harrisburg. "The game is widely known throughout the Mid-West, but we hope to gain traction in other areas, and this is our first trip to the East Coast for a demonstration like this, Rasmussen said.
“We want people to know that being born with a physical disability or becoming disabled later in life doesn’t mean that you can’t play volleyball locally, regionally or at the Olympic level,” said Rasmussen.
While athletes playing for the National Team are required to meet certain disability classifications, Rasmussen says his goal is to introduce the sport to both disabled and able-bodied athletes. “This sport is for anyone who wants to play volleyball in a different way, and the more people we play against the better we become.”
Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority Executive Director Gregg Cook applauds Carlton's extra efforts. "Michelle's desire to enhance KRVA's tournaments by incorporating demonstrations and opportunities for all ages and skills to be involved is the kind of thing that helps these events to grow and succeed. The level of competition is always outstanding, and the experience that she brings to the table with the extra programming makes these events that much more special and attractive for teams to keep coming back."
KRVA hosts four major volleyball events each year at the PA Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, PA, generating more than $5 million dollars in economic impact as thousands of athletes, coaches and spectators travel here from across the country.
KRVA’s elite boys’ event - the Boys’ Atlantic Northeastern Tournament – will bring upwards of 220 teams to the region in February 2018. Girls tournaments are held in March and May. Each event fills 30 courts at the PA Farm Show Complex.