With help from fellow Olympians, Harmotto Dietzen, Give It Back Foundation hosting volleyball camp at Moon
Volleyballs will be flying through the air and hitting the floor at Moon High School on Friday and Saturday as the Give It Back Foundation’s annual girls volleyball camp makes its way to Western Pennsylvania for the first time.
Christa Harmotto Dietzen, a Hopewell graduate and one of six former U.S. Olympians set to provide instruction throughout the two days, is excited to bring the camp to her hometown.
“The process (to bring the camp to Pittsburgh) began in January when we looked for a location that could hold as many girls as possible,” said Dietzen, who will help welcome 88 girls, eighth grade and up, from throughout the region and also Delaware, North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio.
“It’s special to be here and be able to pass on all the volleyball and life knowledge that we gained when we were competing for the USA teams.”
Dietzen’s resume in the game includes three WPIAL championships, a PIAA title, two NCAA championships at Penn State, a gold medal at the 2014 World Championships, and silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the 2012 and ’16 Summer Olympics.
In addition to the work on the court, camp participants will take part in sessions involving leadership, building self-confidence, goal-setting, nutrition and training.
Members of the USA Women’s National Volleyball team founded the Give It Back Foundation in 2015 to help teach the game of volleyball and also raise money for charitable causes.
The annual camp has raised close to $60,000. Dietzen said 100 percent of the proceeds from this year’s camp will go toward building a high school in Guli, Uganda. She drew inspiration from her experiences on a mission trip to the country last year.
Tim Toy, co-founder of the We Serve First foundation that provides support, financial and otherwise, for local players hoping to pursue volleyball opportunities, said he’s pleased the foundation is able to expand camp sponsorship this year to 25 players from throughout Western Pennsylvania, including those from such school districts as Leechburg, Kiski Area, Plum and Apollo-Ridge.
“We sent an email to local coaches at the beginning of summer hoping to find kids who might not be able to afford the camp fee on their own,” Toy said. “We got decent response from all over. We want to help give these local players the opportunity to go to the camp and be coached up by some of the best minds in the game, not just on technique on the court, but also in life beyond the game.”
Several high school and club coaches — including Plum’s Kelsey Bonk and Kiski Area’s Jodie McCartney — will help with instruction over the camp’s two days.
Bonk, along with rising juniors Makayla Jackson from Plum and McKenna Pierce from Leechburg and recent graduate Cassie Shoupe from Kiski Area, received sponsorship from We Serve First to attend last year’s camp in Anaheim, Calif.
“I am very excited, especially with it coming to our hometown,” Bonk said. “We have this camp, and fast-forward to December we have the NCAA (Division I) championships coming to Pittsburgh. It’s great to have more opportunities for young girls to get excited about volleyball and become more exposed to it. Volleyball in the area has grown so much in recent years.”
Bonk played volleyball at Westmoreland Elite under the coaching leadership of the late Ellen Toy.
Toy, who died from cancer in February 2016, included tenures at Leechburg, Kiski Area and Plum during her long and storied coaching career.
Tim Toy said several donations, including one from the Jaime Vick Moran Memorial Fund, established in memory of the local coaching colleague of Ellen Toy who died of cancer in August 2012, went a long way in helping with the camp fees for the 25 sponsored players.
North Allegheny’s Abby Miller, the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year for 2018, received $1,000 dollars in connection with the honor to be donated to the athletic foundation of her choice, and she chose We Serve First. That money, Toy said, also is helping to sponsor the players.
For more information on the Give It Back Foundation or to donate, visit giveitbackfoundation.org/donate.
There will be a silent auction, with signed jerseys from Pittsburgh-born NFL, WNBA and Olympic athletes, from 9 a.m. Friday to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .