Brian Neben Lexington Clipper-Herald
LEXINGTON — The 28th Annual Joe Torres Co-Ed Sand Volleyball Tournament raised $4,020 for this year’s beneficiary, Kristy Connolley.
Connolley is fighting squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, characterized by abnormal, accelerated growth of squamous cells. She received her diagnosis in September 2021.
“I am very thankful and blessed that I was picked as the recipient,” Connolley said before the tournament.
“We would like to take a moment and let the community of Lexington and the people who played in the volleyball tournament know how much you are appreciated,” Connolley and her family wrote in a statement, “I sure hope you all had fun playing in the tournament, it was fun to watch while we were there.”
“The thoughts, prayers and donations were appreciated during this difficult time in our lives. I am blessed to teach in a community where people don’t fight alone. Thanks again for everything,” the statement concluded.
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Tournament organizer Jim Macias said 18 teams participated in the tournament, players hailed from Lexington, Cozad, Gothenburg, Kearney, Grand Island, Minden, Franklin and Denver, Colo.
Macias said it was a good day, with a great turnout and was happy to see people from Lexington and outside of the community participating. “The tournament touches people’s hearts,” he said.
Macias said each year it is great to see the outpouring of support for the beneficiaries of the tournament, he added that it’s not about winning or losing, but about whom the teams are playing for.
Everyone there on Sunday was there for Connolley, Macias said, and “She is in our hearts.”
For his role in organizing the tournaments, Macias has been humble and directs the focus on the teams in the tournament. On Sunday, he pointed toward the teams throughout Plum Creek Park and said, “They are the story.”
Participants in the tournament could also take part in the raffle, which included items ranging from Husker volleyball and football tickets, a two ton jack, gift cards, tire rotations, clothing, hooks, cutting boards, signs, etc.
Macias noted this was also the 16th year Barb Hinrichs provided a hand-sewn quilt and for the raffle.
Donations came from a variety of businesses and individuals, including, Tyson, Coca-Cola of Kearney, Black Diamond Auto, Lexington Regional Health Center, Reynold’s Love Funeral Home, Pinnacle Bank, ServiceMaster, D’Milacos, Plum Creek Market Place, China Hy , Nancy Sorensen, Lana Booker, Sheri Baldwin, Tracy Naylor, City of Lexington Parks and Recreation, Frontier Medical of Cozad, Platte Valley Auto, Heartland Chevrolet, Nelson’s Furniture, Lexington Family Eyewear, Fill-N-Chill, Trivent, Family Dollar, Channel and ELA staff.
The gold winners of the tournament were the teams, “No Scrubs” of Kearney, the winners of the silver tournament were “Hy Hittaz,” which included Macias’ daughter from Denver.
The origins of the tournament can trace its roots back to 1993 when Macias first moved to the community and met Joe Torres, who just happened to share the same name of Macias’ best friend in high school.
He recalled that Torres was at least 6-feet 2-inches tall and weighed 260-plus pounds before leukemia struck. Within three months, Torres dwindled to 150 pounds. Because he was a volleyball player, Macias decided to organize a tournament as a fundraiser to benefit his friend.
The tournament is pool-play and double-elimination format. Players step in as volunteers to referee when their team in not playing. “It’s all on a volunteer basis,” Macias said.
The idea of a volleyball tournament to benefit a community member with cancer stuck and for the next 27 years around the end of July, community members gather to help support one of their own.
The tournament seemed to take on a life of its own, Macias noted, by 2001 there was constant coverage by the local media and sponsors began regularly supporting the tournament.
Last year, to benefit five-month-old Camilo Placencia Velazquez, 12 teams came from Lexington, North Platte, Kearney and Minden. Individual players came from as far as Axtell, Aurora, York and Omaha.
“It brings out the best in people,” Macias said of the tournament, “The community cares for the people who live here; it is overwhelming.”