Tournament raises paddles in battle for a great cause

VSA Partners’ Chicago office held the first annual Paddle Battle ping pong tournament for charity on February 27. VSA employees signed up for the chance to play each other for the coveted and legendary Golden Paddle.

Advancing to the quarter- and semifinals were excellent players Luise Barnikel, Brian Griggs, Louis Klieger, Jarred Kolar, Peta Niehaus, Peter Ratcliffe and Rob Schellenberg. The final match featured Kolar and Niehaus, with Niehaus winning handily in front of a rapt audience and soundtracked to “Eye of the Tiger.” (Note to present and future VSAers: she’s scary-good.)

Best of all, every entry fee and donation from spectators went to Urban Initiatives, a non-profit dedicated to providing extracurricular sports activities for young people in Chicago Public Schools. A total of $360 was raised for Urban Initiatives and given to Development Coordinator Kyle Haskins and Program Manager April Lillstrom, who attended the tournament and cheered on the players; Haskins even subbed in at the last minute for an absent competitor.

“Urban Initiatives is celebrating its 10th anniversary of working with underserved children in Chicago schools, and we enlist companies like VSA to help us,” said Lillstrom. “The notion of ‘giving back’ feels much more real when people have the opportunity to interact and play with kids whose lives are often lacking in positive play and caring adults. But sometimes ‘giving back’ is as simple as giving your time for a fun social activity.” She added, “I had a GREAT time at the tournament!”

“Anytime you can marry a friendly inter-office competition with donating to a worthy cause like Urban Initiatives is a win-win,” added champion Niehaus, in the middle of figuring out where to hang the Golden Paddle near her desk. “Of course, anytime you can win the whole tournament, it’s a win-win-win. I really enjoyed playing and would love to see more of VSA’s table tennis players join in the fun next time.”

Thanks to VSA’s neighbors at the 600 West building, Belly, for donating the use of a second ping pong table, and to Urban Initiatives for partnering with VSA. You can learn much more about Urban Initiatives by visiting their website or their Facebook page, making a donation, volunteering for an upcoming event or signing up for their March Madness Pool today. You can also view a larger gallery of Paddle Battle photos on VSA’s Facebook page. And stay tuned for news on the next Paddle Battle, returning later in 2014 with more players, more matches and higher stakes.