Story & Photos
By Carl Holcomb
Yanking the donkeys to get back on defense was a comical struggle, while the donkey on the breakaway set its own pace to the hoop during the Donkey Basketball tournament at Moorefield Middle School last Tuesday.
Moorefield Middle School principal Patrick McGregor showcased his dribbling skills while riding the donkey trotting to the hoop as defenders pulled their way to reach him.
“It was a good time. i was glad to see we had a nice crowd out tonight,” Moorefield Middle School principal Patrick McGregor stated.
“I think people would rather come out to a show like that and laugh, than they would have us knock on their door asking for them to buy doughnuts. It was real nice for Summit Community Bank, Believers Victory Center and the Sheriff’s Office to come together tonight with our team from Moorefield. It was very difficult to play on the donkey, especially to shoot from any distance. Layups are okay, but any distance they are wobbly and it is hard to stay on them. The best part was looking in the stands seeing everybody smile and laugh. It was great for the kids to get a ride at halftime, to see them smile when they were riding and that is the reason they came.”
There were four teams competing at this donkey basketball tournament: Believers Victory Center (church), Peacemakers (law enforcement), Summit Slammers (bank), and Moorefield Middle School (educational staff).
[private] In the pre-game meeting, the Buckeye Donkey Ball coordinator Chase Danison told the teams the only winners in the games were the donkeys.
“The donkeys are the real winners, they make the kids happy,” Buckeye Donkey Ball representative Chase Danison commented.
“We usually do between four and five shows per week. Each donkey has its own little quirks and own little tricks they do out there. Some of them duck to get people off and some of them buck to get people off and some of them stall out. They know if they stay still they don’t have to carry anyone. Some of them run fast up and down the court and others take their sweet time. I saw somebody who went to come shoot and came off the back of the donkey. I was really happy to see people go for it. Most people remember the smell. I know I sure do after being with them all day.”
The Buckeye Donkey Ball organization was founded in 1934, provided the donkeys and referee for the games at Moorefield Middle School, and is based out of Columbus, Ohio.
Buckeye Donkey Ball travels around the nation to schools for these contests and was in Romney a few weeks ago, in North Carolina on Monday and headed to Pittsburgh, Pa. after Moorefield.
The donkeys had unique names: Ebony, Zorro, Killer, Hippie, Hop-a-long, One Ear, Star Cash, John Wayne, Red Dog and Midnight.
The donkeys were wearing nylon shoes to prevent damage to the basketball floor.
One crucial point made was the ears were good, tail bad when getting on the donkey to ride as far as the right direction for sitting on them which got a bunch of laughter from the teams in the meeting.
Danison was in charge of the donkeys on this adventure and is a songwriter and country singer originally from Arizona, who could possibly have a song about donkeys coming in the future.
He enjoys traveling and seeing different communities around the country and was impressed by the beauty of Hardy County and West Virginia and was initially afraid Mountain men might come out of the woods when driving here.
“I think it is beautiful here. I get to travel around West Virginia a lot, especially these past three weeks. It’s been some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen. I was in North Carolina last night and I’m heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow,” Danison noted.
Once the donkeys were out of the trailer, Red Dog decided to roll on his back on the pavement.
At the beginning of the games, each team lined up with their prospective donkeys on the baselines under the hoop and Hilderman placed the basketball at midcourt and blew the whistle.
The contestants pulled hard on the donkeys to reach the ball first and try to find a teammate to pass to.
As one of the rules, a pass had to be made within 15 seconds if not sitting on the donkey to a teammate who was already riding one.
As the games started, most of the potential riders found it difficult to get on top of the donkeys and stay on for a certain length of time.
Immediately after the start of the Believers Victory Center and Summit Slammers game, one of the donkeys named Midnight was ready to forfeit rolling on the floor for a minute on defense as the BVC team moved to the basket.
BVC associate pastor and youth director Scott Fawley was able to get good balance on his donkey and made several shots leading his team to victory over the Summit Slammers.
“It’s a fun experience for a good cause for the middle school,” BVC associate pastor Scott Fawley remarked.
“It’s kind of crazy riding a donkey and trying to shoot a basket at the same time. The smell is pretty strong too. It is a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. We wanted vindication from last year going 0-2, so we came in with the eye of the tiger and a strategy. It kind of worked out.”
Summit Community Bank branch manager Becky Yokum showed her excitement with a huge smile riding the donkey for a second year and encouraging her teammates showcasing specially designed shirts.
Hardy County Sheriff Bryan Ward rode last year and this time was the coach for the Peacemakers and the law enforcement officers had shirts made for the event as well.
Hardy County Sheriff Deputy Alicia Sanders was one of the first time riders and was excited about the experience, but hesitant about potential injuries when falling off.
“It was a blast,” Hardy County Sheriff Deputy Alicia Sanders said.
“The only person that had ever been on a donkey before was sheriff and he said he was coaching this year. We enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun. In the beginning when the donkey was trying to scratch its back, that was pretty funny. I’m glad I didn’t fall off.”
One donkey bucked and made Moorefield Middle FFA advisor Roy Harper hit the floor hard, but he was able to get up and walk away, the name of that donkey was John Wayne.
The Peacemakers edged Moorefield Middle to reach the championship round against Believers Victory Center.
McGregor and his donkey Zorro were good teammates making steady strides to the basket as the defense tried to intercept the ball.
During a break in the action, the donkeys were given water before providing rides for the children in the audience across the court with members of the basketball teams providing assistance.
Trying to lead the donkey and master shooting from a seated position while moving was difficult, but the joy and laughter the show brought to the fans was uplifting.
This fundraiser helped Moorefield Middle School and provided a good time of laughter for the community. [/private]