JACKSON, Mo. -- The crowd cheered as the athletes took the court Friday, but team members merely twitched their ears and moved into position, determined to make asses of themselves.
The traveling team of donkeys was in Jackson for donkey ball night, a fund raiser to benefit R.O. Hawkins Junior High.
Junior high teachers were pitted against middle school teachers and parents against "celebrities" in what seemed to be a mix of basketball, rugby and polo.
Middle school parent Debbie Garrett was elated after she scored three baskets for her team.
"I did good, didn't I!" she crowed to her daughter, who was sitting in the stands.
The event was sponsored by the Jackson Middle School Parent Teacher Organization.
The PTO found itself in the unusual position of having filled all the requests of teachers in its own school, so members turned their attention to the junior high.
"We were getting down to the end of the year and thought 'Gosh, we've got a lot of money,'" said PTO vice president Jim Roche.
"I was president a few years ago, and we had to turn some people down." Roche said. "I remember the cafeteria wanted an ice machine, and we had to say no. They've got their ice machine now."
This year the organization purchased books for the library, helped pay for risers for the choir and bought books for teachers.
What's their secret?
"Dedicated volunteers," said member Mary Margaret Wiginton.
PTO president Brenda DeCoursey agrees.
"We have exceptional help at every event," she said. "It doesn't take a large number of individuals, but it does take a good solid core."
DeCoursey also said an enthusiastic group of students helped raise the lion's share of the funds.
Students sold $57,000 worth of catalog-based merchandise, from knickknacks to chocolate.
The organization was able to keep half that. Students and PTO members also sell T-shirts, gym bags and ice cream.
The group arranged for the Ohio-based Buckeye Donkey Ball Inc. organization to bring the donkeys to Jackson on Friday.
Wiginton said she hopes the money raised will provide seed money to activate the dormant PTO at the junior high.
It only makes sense, she said, since that's the school their children will attend next.
But someone had to pay the price.
Only a few human participants weren't limping slightly after the donkey ball match. Many were thrown, fell off or were just plain uncomfortable astride the donkeys.
"Man, that bony backbone is worse than any motorcycle seat I ever felt," said Steve McKelvey, rubbing his backside.
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