Penns Valley

Donkey basketball tradition continues in Penns Valley

Taran Rowles looks towards the basket as he trots down the court on a donkey during donkey basketball to raise money for the FFA at Penns Valley High School on Friday, April 17 2015.
Taran Rowles looks towards the basket as he trots down the court on a donkey during donkey basketball to raise money for the FFA at Penns Valley High School on Friday, April 17 2015. CDT photo

Super Stupid was just about ready to play basketball after doing its duty on the Penns Valley Area High School gymnasium floor Friday night.

The donkey made a mess, but eighth-grader Douglas Bierly was ready with a shovel and wheelbarrow to help clean it up.

“They poop and we scoop,” said Bierly, who was a part of a five-member cleanup crew.

The burro, provided by Buckeye Donkey Ball, of Columbus, Ohio, was one of 10 that provided entertainment for the annual Donkey Ball game to help raise money for the district’s FFA organization — formerly called Future Farmers of America.

It was an unorthodox way of playing basketball, but it is the association’s largest annual fundraiser, said agriculture teacher and club adviser John Howell.

It’s been a tradition for Penns Valley Area FFA for more than 40 years.

“We do a good job marketing the game to help with donations,” Howell said. “One year we did such good marketing, we had to turn people away at the door.”

The goal was to raise more than $800, of which about half would go to the Young Farmers Coalition, Howell added.

Money raised will help fund travel expenses to state and national competitions.

With five people per team on the court at a time, the objective was for each player to ride his or her assigned donkey, carry a basketball to the hoop and rack up as many points as possible during four, eight-minute quarters.

This year’s game was played between about 20 active members of FFA, and a handful of alumni.

And despite bucking down the court, Super Stupid was instrumental in getting its rider, junior Taylor Smith, to the net for her team’s first points to tie the game at 2 by the end of the first quarter.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” Smith said.

Pennsylvania FFA Foundation board member Bob Corman, of Centre Hall, volunteered at the game.

The 1963 PVAHS graduate said he played Donkey Ball as a student and as a member of the Young Farmers Coalition, and told rookies not to predict the donkey’s actions.

“Whatever you think the donkey will do, it will actually do the complete opposite,” Corman said with a laugh.

For sophomore Devon Wasson, 16, it was her first year participating in the game.

“I guess I’m just going to wing it and hope for a good turnout,” she said. “I never rode a donkey before.”

Wasson hopped on a donkey named Rocket who merely moseyed down the courtas Wasson attempted at least a dozen shots.

At one point, Rocket didn’t even move until a trainer cracked a whip near the donkey’s feet.

A trainer from the Ohio-based donkey provider gave a brief lesson on how to handle the donkeys before the game began.

“They really just wanted to make sure we know what we’re doing before we ride them,” said sophomore Taran Rowles, 16.

But for the students, the mission was simply to provide entertainment for about 200 spectators.

“More than anything, it’s about having fun and bringing laughs,” said senior Trevor Heckman, FFA vice president. “We just want to have a good time.”

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