Tyler Gannon, 17, was surrounded by middle-schoolers Saturday on the Schenectady High School soccer field. His only defense: a bucket of water balloons.
Wearing a Schenectady varsity baseball T-shirt, the outfielder picked up the bucket and flung the balloons in their direction. They all missed.
From there, the six kids captured the flag with ease.
“We just beat a bunch of high-schoolers,” said a smiling Hannah Cruz, 8, of Schenectady, the youngest member of the All-Stars, as she celebrated the win with her teammates.
Gannon said the competition was tough and his team, the War Dogs, was overzealous.
“Yeah, we were aggressive,” he said.
The two teams competed in the Splash Down tournament, a twist on the popular game Capture the Flag. The tournament, which saw only the two teams of seven compete, was part of a four-hour fundraiser organized by four Schenectady High School students to raise funds and awareness for Doctors Without Borders. The charity provides care and medical assistance to people in countries affected by food shortages, epidemics, natural disasters and scarce health care.
“There was supposed to be a lot more [teams],” said Schenectady senior Juliana Murcia Montoya, 17, one of the organizers. “It’s our first time doing it — it’s not the best turnout — but we’re just happy it’s happening.”
She and Lily Herrmann, Sam Suriano and Kayla Aulet all have an interest in studying medicine and are in the high school’s International Baccalaureate program. They organized the event to meet the program’s CAS (creativity, action, service) requirement with a goal of raising $2,500. They had already raised $700 through bake sales, a car wash and other events, with $350 spent on supplies for Saturday’s event.
“We decided that we wanted to raise money, but we also wanted to get the community involved because Doctors Without Borders is hugely into inclusion,” said Herrmann, 17.
Local restaurants donated pizzas to be sold and gift certificates to be raffled, and over 50 students from Schenectady and neighboring schools volunteered.
“All four girls did an awesome job,” said Janet Aulet, Kayla’s mother, who baked turkey empanadas for the event. “They had a cause in mind, and they just ran with it. Even if it wasn’t for a school project, I would see them getting involved in something like that.”
A 10-member Schenectady High School jazz group, Combo for a Cause, also performed and raised money for another International Baccalaureate CAS project. The students sold frozen treats and accepted donations for Water.org, a charity for which some of last year’s seniors raised money.
Jacob Chank, 17, said he and three other Schenectady seniors chose to continue that tradition for their IB project because “drought is a really easy problem to solve.” Their goal is to raise $500, and they hope to play at local venues like The Van Dyke and The Stockade Inn before they graduate. Saturday’s gig was their first.
“You just have to dig wells, and you have to dig them in the right places,” said Chank, who plays trumpet in the group.
Colleen Wygal, who mentors the students and teaches 12th grade IB English at the high school, said the students required little help in organizing the event.
“All the initiative was taken on by the students, with no faculty involvement whatsoever, so it’s really impressive that they’re doing this,” she said after one of the student volunteers painted her 5-year-old daughter’s face to look like a kitten.
Wygal admitted to having some involvement, however.
“I invited people for them,” she said, “and I’m running to get them pizza right now.”
Back on the soccer field, Xavier Cruz, 13, said his All-Stars won by waiting for the War Dogs to come for the flag and guarding it closely.
“We just wanted to get them in jail,” the Schenectady boy said. “It was easier.”
“We waited until one person was left, and then we all closed in on that one person,” said William Aulet, 13, Kayla’s brother.
Before his team surrendered the flag, Ditaye Douglas, 17, nearly stole the win for the War Dogs. After swerving through the defense and dodging water balloons, he was a few feet from crossing the center line with the opponent’s flag in hand.
That’s when the linebacker on the varsity football team was taken down by a 13-year-old. William Aulet splashed Douglas’ leg with a water balloon despite Douglas’ best attempt to hurdle it.
“They put in mad work,” the high school senior said, putting blue war paint on his face and hoping for a rematch. “Their line defense was on point.”