SKOWHEGAN — After 10 years of organizing the Battle for Breast Cancer and more than $200,000 of raised funds, Paula Doughty was looking for another worthy endeavor. She opened the floor up to her Skowhegan field hockey team.

Her players were ready with an idea.

“They were ready for something new,” Doughty said. “They said ‘Coach, let’s do family violence. It’s really high now in Somerset County, it’s something that we’re really passionate about. We know lots of people that are dealing with family violence.’ We decided to take that new direction.”

The Skowhegan and Nokomis field hockey teams compete during a Victory Over Violence summer tournament game Saturday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The result was the first Victories Over Violence event, a field hockey round robin to benefit the Family Violence Project, which raises funds for domestic abuse victims in Somerset and Kennebec Counties. Skowhegan hosted the games Saturday morning, while Lawrence, Nokomis and Mt. Blue also participated. The schools were the four teams that made up the original Battle for Breast Cancer event in 2010.

“It’s prevalent today,” Doughty said. “Every kid knows somebody or has experienced it. It’s been a great cause.”

“(Paula) has a village of people, and whatever she wants, we get it done,” Lawrence coach Shawna Robinson said. “The girls are very charitable, and it’s a great learning experience for them. Hopefully they get something out of it, and not just field hockey.”

Saturday’s festivities went beyond the field. The Family Violence Project had a tent set up by the field with brochures and information about domestic abuse, and Nancy Provost, one of the organization’s educators, gave a presentation to the players on Tuesday at The Space in Skowhegan.

“An event like this is great because it’s so community-based,” development and communication director Nathan MacDonald said. “This is a fantastic event, to be part of the community, in the schools again. Not just there to be in the classroom as an educational session, but also be out here within the community.”

Doughty said she was happy with how her players jumped at the chance for a new mission.

“This is a whole new generation of kids,” Doughty said. “When we started the Battle, these kids were like 3 or 4 years old. They’re ready to try something new.”

Those players were happy to be part of both the cause and the action Saturday morning, especially after the pandemic ruled out the opportunity for such a benefit last summer.

“You feel so good about what you’re doing,” said Skowhegan sophomore Layla Conway, whose team raised $4,000 in a six-hour fundraising session at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds. “It’s very good competition right now, it’s getting us ready for the season and we’re doing it for a good cause, so it’s great.”

“We knew a lot of kids around our age had had tough times, and we wanted something that would benefit all of them,” Skowhegan junior Samantha Thebarge said. “It’s really nice. We all missed it last year.”

Opposing players were just as eager to be involved.

“We’ve participated in the Battle for Breast Cancer for the last 10 years, since it was created, and we love giving back to our community,” Mt. Blue senior Eva Stevens said. “(This) is super important, and I think it’s something that young kids don’t realize.”

“We love doing these tournaments, we love raising money for these causes. I think it’s great,” Lawrence senior Emma Poulin said. “Obviously, we get to play great teams like Skowhegan, who we don’t normally get to play in the regular season. Mt. Blue, Nokomis, really good teams. I think it’s really good practice for us. Especially me, I love playing against the higher level of competition teams.”

The field hockey was a big part of the experience. Teams are already busy with their summer leagues, but they know every opportunity to get repetition in a game environment is worth seizing.

“We’re all here to improve,” Skowhegan junior Callaway LePage said. “It helps us with our chemistry right now, so when it comes to the season, these mistakes we’re making in summer, we’re not going to make in season. We’re going to learn from this now.”

The teams didn’t get that chance last year. This time, they knew what they were missing.

“After last year, not being able to have the Battle and not being able to have the Battle this year, we were just looking forward to having something to do,” Skowhegan junior Eleanor Tibbetts said. “It feels more normal. We’re so used to having the Battle every year and we didn’t have that last year, we didn’t really have a normal season last year. Being back here feels like something more in the norm.”

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