WATERVILLE — Team fundraisers have always been a big deal for the Skowhegan field hockey team, but over the past two years, the River Hawks have been trying something new.

For nine years, Skowhegan held its Battle for Breast Cancer event, which raised money for the Martha B. Webber Breast Care Center in nearby Farmington. Yet when the fundraising event returned last summer after a one-year hiatus, the team’s head coach, Paula Doughty, decided to go in a different direction.

“During COVID, one of the things we were hearing was that there was a lot of physical and emotional abuse,” Doughty said. “We thought it was really important to sit down and take a look at that situation and bring some attention to it, so the girls took it on themselves to do that.”

The team did so by reorganizing the Battle for Breast Cancer as the Victories over Violence tournament, which puts proceeds toward the Family Violence Project. After a small tournament of just four teams in 2021, Victories over Violence grew to 10 this year and was already on pace to smash fundraising goals by the time games began.

Skowhegan, Erskine Academy, Lawrence, Maine Central Institute, Messalonskee, Mt. Blue, Nokomis, Winslow, Winthrop and Dexter all participated in Saturday’s tournament, held at Thomas College. The teams competed in a six-hour, round-robin tournament in the form of 25-minute games played on the university’s two turf fields.

Winslow High School goalie Laine Bell (22) makes a save against Messalonskee on Saturday at Thomas College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Yet those games, while exciting, were secondary to what was going on outside the field of play. From holding 50-50 raffles to securing outright donations, event organizers were raising money at a breakneck pace as they canvassed the area in search of willing donors.


“We have $20,000 already, and we’ve barely even started,” Doughty said at 3 p.m., just an hour into the tournament. “Our goal was $25,000, and we’re going to hit that for sure. Businesses and people themselves have all been very generous, and the kids are excited about it.”

Much of the money had already been raised before players, coaches and spectators gathered at Thomas for the games. Some of the teams present, including Skowhegan, Lawrence and Messalonskee, held their own fundraisers in the days leading up to the event.

Lawrence was able to raise $1,135 through a car wash late Friday afternoon at Grass Eater’s in Waterville and an additional $300 through a bottle drive. Players and coaches drew significant support through signs urging donations and reminders that, as one poster put it, “Love should always be safe.” 

Members of the Skowhegan High School field hockey team try to seek refuge from the sun under umbrellas at the Victories Over Violence field hockey tournament on Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

In addition to the money raised, Lawrence players also heard from head coach Shawna Robinson’s brother, Robert Rogers. Rogers, who works with Youth and Family Services in Skowhegan, spoke in front of the team and sparked a discussion that the Bulldogs felt was greatly impactful.

“Being so young, it just teaches us that there are resources we need if we ever need them and that it’s important to build healthy relationships and not toxic ones,” said Lawrence senior Ashlynn Stewart. “It’s an issue that happens in the home and is not really seen or talked about, so bringing awareness of it to a tournament like this is important.”

Although the rubber-laden field turf added to the mid-90-degree heat, the consistent breeze made play tolerable in the peak of the afternoon. With the tournament bringing together teams from an assortment of different classifications, there were intriguing matchups such as the 1-1 draw between Skowhegan and Lawrence.

“We’re in A, and they’re in B, but we play a lot in the preseason, and the games are always great,” Robinson said. “It’s great we could play today for a good cause. We want to beat each other on the field, but for something like this, it’s important to fight together.”

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