LITTLE RIVER - Donkeys, dancing and even a little dung were all elements of the success that was the Little River Donkey Basketball Fundraiser, Sunday evening. This is the third time donkeyball has graced the floor of the Little River gym.
"The fundraiser went very well," said Little River Learning Center Director Becky Sears. "Attendance was up from last time."
Donkey ball is a time-honored tradition dating back to the great depression when everyone needed a laugh. Players, usually two teams of four, battle it out on a true basketball court aboard their four-legged counterparts. One might ask if this sport is in any way cruel. It is in fact, humiliating and degrading, but not to the animal.
"I thought I was going to die for a minute there, it might be one of the scariest things I've ever done," said Michelle Loder, a player for the Los Seniors team. "It was ridiculous, but really fun and tiring."
The rules are fairly simple. Most any move worth doing, must be while atop of your animal, like scoring and passing. There is no dribbling, but chasing down a ball is no easy feat when it requires moving an animal that is, well, stubborn as a donkey. The beasts, while tame and for the most part gentle, don't make the sport easy, but also there are no stirrups or saddles to hold on to or maintain balance. Each team can have as many human subs as they'd like and at least one donkey is in reserve as well. The riders wear helmets and are advised to not get behind their counterparts as they have been known to kick.
The animal athletes came from Dairyland Donkey Ball LLC out of Iowa. They have been doing this for three generations now and serve the fundraising needs of 18 states. And they aren't just limited to basketball, they offer baseball and celebrity donkey races.
Four teams participated on Sunday. Two teams, the Wonkey Donkeys and the Hacksaws were made up of adults-teachers, staff and parents of Little River High School. The Junior Jacks and Los Seniors were made up of juniors and seniors at Little River High School. The event was a single-elimination tournament that saw the Los Seniors as the victors. No donkeys were injured throughout the evening and only the riders' pride was worse for wear at the end of the day.
"It's so much harder than it looks," Loder said. "You can't get on, stay on or even get them to move the way you want them to."
The basketball game was held to raise funds for the Little River Learning Center and so it did. Tickets went on sale weeks in advance and were also available at the gate. A total of 520 tickets were sold. In addition to the event itself, a free-will donation potato and dessert bar raised funds as well as multiple raffles. A portion of ticket sales does go to Dairyland Donkeys, but in the end, Little River Learning Center walked away with a profit.
"I want to thank the parents and board members and patrons off Little River for making this possible," Sears said.
For more information on Dairyland Donkeyball LLC visit https://dairylanddonkeyball.com/. For additional information or to donate to the Little River Learning Center call 620-897-6263.