Every year, Chatfield-area FFA supporters get together to spike for scholars.

"This is the 12th annual volleyball tournament, and it raises funds for our FFA chapter's college scholarship program for our FFA seniors," said Chatfield High School (CHS) FFA adviser Stacy Fritz.

She is currently in the final planning stages for the Jared Hammell Memorial Volleyball Tournament, slated for this Saturday, March 16.

"No other FFA chapter in the state of Minnesota has as large of a scholarship program as the Chatfield FFA does," she added.

Each year, FFA members, parents, alumni and community volunteers gather to play volleyball at Chatfield's high school gymnasium in a tournament dedicated to the memory of CHS student Jared Hammell, and to make a difference for FFAers who wish to pursue post-secondary education.

"This fundraiser is one of the most unique and successful FFA scholarship programs in the state of Minnesota. No other FFA chapter has a program quite like this one. Last year, we gave out over $5,000 worth of scholarships to FFA seniors who are furthering their education after high school," Fritz explained. "Some go to four-year colleges, and others go to community colleges. They pursue many majors but have one thing in common: all of them are hard-working FFA members who chose to build their personal leadership skills by taking advantage of the many opportunities FFA has to offer."

This year's tournament has over 24 teams registered, with an entry fee of $50 per team, so the get-together's purpose is off to a good start.

"It's held in the Chatfield High School gym, multipurpose room and cafeteria, but this year, we had over 24 teams, so we will be playing some games up at the elementary," Fritz added. "Winning teams from the championship and consolation brackets receive gift certificates to JAC's, as JAC's and FFA have partnered for the team prizes."

Fritz said that one of the great things about this tournament is that people come from miles around to participate in the day's events. She added that she enjoys seeing the people interact and have fun playing in the tournament.

The tournament raises an average of just over $9,000 each year.

"This has expanded from previous years where approximately $5,000 was raised each year," Fritz said.

There will be a silent auction during the setting and spiking, featuring baskets donated by area families and businesses, such as certificates from JAC's Bar and Grille, Bernard Bus, wine baskets, custom fishing pole baskets and a gift certificate basket with funds from local businesses given by the Chatfield FFA Alumni Association.

A popular item of the silent auction each year is the money jar with an undisclosed amount of money in it. "That's always very popular and a great deal," said Fritz.

"There are a wide variety of baskets to appeal to everyone - baskets featuring iPods, movies, kitchen items, Easter-theme baskets, a tool basket and more," she added.

Last year's auction raised over $5,000, and according to Fritz, the year before that was just over $3,000 and that was a record-breaking year.

"The silent auction had become the biggest money maker for the scholarship fund," the adviser said.

FFA students learn about professionalism while organizing the tournament. "Students make most of the phone calls to people and businesses for silent auction items and monetary donations," Fritz said. "They learn how to make professional contact with people and how important planning ahead is when putting on an event such as this."

She continued, "Students also participate during the day selling t-shirts, line judging, setting up, cleaning up and anything else that is needed before and the day of the tournament. It takes many volunteers, students and adults to run an event like this. Preplanning began this year in November and picks up quickly as we get closer to the tournament week."

Fritz invited the public to enjoy the volleyball games and take in the silent auction as the teams come together to gain points and funds for FFA.

"Everyone is welcome to come check out the silent auction and the games. We have a lot of fun," she concluded.

The Jared Hammell Memorial Volleyball Tournament is scheduled for this Saturday, March 16, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. T-shirts will be available for $15 each, and concessions will also be for sale throughout the day, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks - such as walking tacos, pizza and a ham sandwich plate. For more information, contact Stacy Fritz at (507) 696-5853 or email her at sfritz@chatfield.k12.mn.us.