“Hustle for Muscle”: Harker DECA and spirit host fundraiser through volleyball tournament


Emily Tan

The juniors cheer after winning a point against the seniors in the final round of the “Hustle for Muscle” volleyball tournament hosted by Harker DECA and spirit on Nov. 21. The tournament and proceeds from food sales were part of a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

by Emily Tan, Assistant Features Editor

During lunch on Nov. 21, Harker DECA and Harker spirit jointly hosted the “Hustle for Muscle” volleyball tournament fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in the Athletic Center. Students and faculty dressed in green in support of the MDA as four teams, each representing a class, faced off on the court. 

Harker DECA sold various flavors of Cold Stone ice cream cupcakes with over $120 in proceeds going toward the MDA. Before the first game with the freshmen up against the juniors, Sheila Aceves, the development director for the northern California branch of the MDA, delivered a brief speech on the association, describing its contributions to MDA research and innovation and thanking the Harker community for its support. 

“The strength to walk, the strength to give someone a hug… all of those things are limited for someone with neuromuscular disease. At MDA, my colleagues and I go to work every morning hoping to create more hope and answers for families,” Aceves said. 

After her speech, the freshmen and junior teams stepped onto the court, facing off for the first game in the tournament. 

The juniors quickly took the lead 6-1 when the freshmen called a timeout, hoping to reverse the flow of the game. Ultimately, the juniors ended the game 11-3, securing their spot in the finals as the freshmen failed to send the ball over the net. 

Next up were the sophomores up against the seniors. After a massive spike from Jeffery Kwan (12) and two aces from Ashley Jazbec (12), prompting wild cheers in the bleachers, the seniors took the lead 6-4. From there, the sophomores and the seniors fought neck and neck for each point. As Elizabeth “Liza” Shchegrov (10) blocked hits from the seniors, cheers of “that’s my middle” and “twenty-two” erupted among the sophomores in the crowd, but, after a tight and exhilarating game, the seniors took the win 11-9. 

In the finals, the juniors were up against the seniors, fighting for first place. Both sides put up an aggressive offense and a tough defense, but the seniors came out on top, winning 11-7 and maintaining their first place position in terms of spirit points. 

The atmosphere was electric. I loved every moment of it, watching the classes rise and fall with their teams, everyone shouting and screaming—the energy level was just amazing”

— Rohan Varma (11)

Rohan Varma (11), vice president of athletic affairs on the Harker Spirit Leadership Team, served as the commentator for all three matches. He thought that the event served as an effective distraction from students’ daily schoolwork and offered an opportunity for them to let loose with their friends. 

“The atmosphere was electric. I loved every moment of it, watching the classes rise and fall with their teams, everyone shouting and screaming—the energy level was just amazing,” Rohan said. “Just commentating and being a part of that was honestly something that I’m really thankful for, and looking back on it, I really enjoyed that.” 

Behind the scenes, DECA worked with Harker spirit to coordinate the logistics to make the event possible. DECA vice president of public relations Elaine Zhai (11) described the many tasks the team had to accomplish, including advertising and purchasing cupcakes from Cold Stone for the fundraiser. In addition to around $120 raised at the volleyball event, DECA has also raised around $600 from sales during DECA month so far, putting their current total at around $720. DECA hopes to continue raising money to reach their goal of $800 to donate to the MDA. 

“I was really stressed; I was losing my mind, but it was very exciting to see everyone being so excited,” Elaine said. “I remember I was really nervous about sales, but then, just for a moment, I stopped and paused and I saw the audience, and everyone was screaming and cheering, and I was like, you know what, I’m actually really happy about this.”

 In addition to advertising and making sure the student body was aware of the fundraiser, DECA also worked with sophomore Arnav Gupta who has a neuromuscular condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is a degenerative disease typically affecting males. 

In his presentation at school meeting on Nov. 7, Arnav explained that his condition entails the weakening of muscles, starting with the arms and legs and then progressing to the heart and lungs. Arnav has also created the platform GetWellSoon.ai, which helps patients find clinical trials that fit their needs best through government and medical sites. 

“Last year I also wanted to give a speech, but I was kind of a little bit hesitant at first to speak to a large number of people, but this year…I thought it was a really good idea,” Arnav said. “I just wanted to spread awareness about muscular dystrophy and  personally, how it affects me, but also how it affects others as well.”

While the MDA hosts various fundraising events, the ultimate goal is to raise awareness and garner support for research for the diseases. 

“These are very rare diseases, so they don’t necessarily get a lot of attention, so we want people to know about them and know what we’re doing to try to address all 43 neuromuscular diseases at once,” Aceves said. “Also, [we want] to let people know how they can get involved, come out and volunteer at our summer camp, or fundraise in other ways.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Elaine Zhai (11) as the DECA director of public relations instead of the vice president. The article has been updated to reflect this error.