September 5, 2013 | 661 views
Michelle O’Neill tourney returns to Long Beach
17th annual volleyball event set for Saturday
The iconic smiley face logo of the Michelle O’Neill Foundation bulked up and is flexing some muscles this year.
“Our theme is stay strong,” said Carol O’Neill, Long Beach resident and president of the foundation. “And that applies to not only the community that is struggling to get back to where we were, but really for the children, because they certainly face challenges every single day.”
The 17th annual Michelle O’Neill Volleyball Tournament will be this Saturday, with the opening ceremony kicking off at 9 a.m. at Laurelton Boulevard beach. Sunday is the rain date. The tournament is a mainstay in Long Beach, and what O’Neill said many look forward to as “the end-of-the-summer beach party.”
The foundation was started in honor of O’Neill’s daughter, Michelle, who died of cancer in 1996 at age 24. Proceeds from the event go to benefit the foundation, which helps families of children who are undergoing treatment for cancer and special needs by providing financial assistance for the costs that insurance does not cover. Last year, the tournament raised about $130,000.
“I like to think of it in terms of how many people we’ve helped,” said O’Neill. “It’s really not about the numbers in terms of dollars and cents but how the money has been able to relieve some of the financial burdens that these families have.”
O’Neill was not sure how many people would turn out for the event, because many are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, but she said the response has been resounding.
“People were overwhelmingly emphatic about the need to have [the tournament] this year,” she said. “I think people are very anxious for things to get back to normal.”
Along with the volleyball, there will be raffles, kids’ face painting and music playing all day, like always. But a few changes had to be made this year.
Because of boardwalk construction, O’Neill said they can’t hold the tournament on the West End of the boardwalk, like usual. This year, the main entrance and ceremony will be at Laurelton, and the courts will go east from there.
Additionally, Outback traditionally caters the event, but was unable to this year. So local favorite Swingbelly’s stepped up to the plate and will be feeding both the competitors and spectators this year, O’Neill said.