By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
DARRINGTON — In the days following the massive Oso mudslide that claimed 43 lives, students and faculty at Darrington High School volunteered their time and efforts to search for the missing and provide comfort to the grieving.
Student activities, including athletics, took a backseat to helping the community deal with one of the worst natural disasters in Snohomish County history.
Around the state, others took notice of the Loggers’ compassion.
Washington State University and Central Washington University offered to waive first-year tuition costs for incoming students from Darrington.
Central went even further, reaching out to Darrington’s athletes.
The Darrington volleyball program had taken at least one team to Central’s annual summer tournament for as long as head coach Greg Powell can remember. The fee is about $300 per team, and in the past was paid for through fund-raising efforts.
This year, the team didn’t even try to raise the money.
“It seemed crass — or maybe insensitive, that’s probably a better word — to ask our community to give money when there has been so much loss that seemed more important,” Darrington assistant volleyball coach Linne Haywood said.
Rather than see a team that had become a staple at the yearly tournament miss out, Central’s head volleyball coach, Mario Andaya, invited the Darrington players to attend the camp at no charge after asking for and receiving permission to do so from the NCAA.
“It was a no-brainer for us because Darrington’s been coming to our camps for years,” Andaya said. “Greg has been pretty loyal to our camps and it was the least we could do in their situation. We just wanted to continue that tradition and get them here and not have to worry about the financial part of it.”
Darrington brought two teams to the June tournament, which would have cost the volleyball program roughly $600. Andaya also extended an invitation to any Darrington players who wanted to attend Central’s volleyball camp — which costs $240 per person — free of charge. The Loggers took 16 girls to the camp that started Monday and concludes today.
In total, Andaya was able to waive between $5,000 and $6,000 in fees between the tournament and camp.
“They run those things to make money,” Powell said. “They make money for their program and it helps them with expenses. Having high school girls come over for tournaments and camps, it’s a big thing for those college programs. For them to just give up those thousands and thousands of dollars for us to come was pretty amazing.”
Central also extended an offer for Darrington football players to attend its football camp in June free of charge. A total of 22 players took the school up on its offer.
Between football and volleyball, Central waived nearly $12,000 in fees and lodging.
“I think everybody has been overwhelmed by all the money and attention and help that has come,” Powell said.
The Darrington volleyball team graduated six seniors in June, making the Central tournament and camp important steps in getting a head start on next season.
“I think it helps a lot, especially because we graduated like half of our team,” said outside hitter Tayler Hoftell, who will be a senior this fall. “These tournaments and the camps, not only do they help us with our skills, but it helps us as a team because we are lacking a team chemistry and a camaraderie and I think both the tournaments and the camps really help develop that in us.”
Right-side hitter Baleigh Rumsey was grateful for the opportunity to create memories with her friends.
“The summer is definitely where I make some of my more prominent memories because we go to these camps and we bond with each other and it’s not just volleyball, basketball and softball,” she said. “We’re with each other and we create a bond.”
One of the six seniors who graduated in June, setter Riley Anderson, is one of the Darrington students who will take advantage of Central’s offer to waive a year’s worth of tuition when she enrolls at the university this fall. Anderson had decided to attend Central before the offer was made, but the school’s generosity will help ease the burden of her freshman year.
“It was really helpful because I would have been working my first year there otherwise and making money for the next year and the other years that I didn’t have paid off by the scholarships,” she said.
For players such as Hoftell and Rumsey, who have yet to make their college choices, Central’s generosity has them considering becoming Wildcats.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” said Rumsey, who flashed the Central lanyard hanging around her neck when asked if she would consider attending CWU.
As a show of gratitude, the Darrington players signed a T-shirt and presented it to Andaya when they participated in the CWU tournament.
Andaya was touched by the gesture.
“For them to kind of use this as a getaway or a sanctuary, if you would, from all the chaos that they had to go through and for them to even put the time and effort to put a gift together for me or for the program, I was dumbfounded,” he said. “I was very grateful for them to consider that. I ended up Tweeting that and I got a lot of likes, so it was pretty cool.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.