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The 2021 Bellows Free Academy Powder Puff football team poses infront of the beautiful playhouse donated to Camp Ta Kum Ta by Grace Emery.

On Saturday, Oct. 2, at 7 pm, seniors from BFA ST. Albans and Missisquoi Valley Union will play in the annual Powder Puff football game at the Collins Perley Sports Complex.

According to staff members planning the event, students from both schools are ecstatic about the game's resumption after COVID-19 restrictions canceled the 2020 game.

How did the annual Powder Puff game get started? The tradition began in 2009 when Alli Berno (class of 2010) requested to use the game to raise money for local community member and coach Ross Toof, who was battling cancer. Although grateful, Toof refused to take the money and made sure it was donated to the Jim Bashaw Cancer and Catastrophic Fund. Toof passed May 2019 at the age of 63

The following year, funds from the game were donated to Camp Ta Kum Ta after the local community was touched by the news that BFA St. Albans' Social Studies teacher Mike Campbell's (step)daughter Grace Emery was battling cancer. Emery loved Camp Ta Kum Ta, a summer camp specially designed to help children fighting cancer "just be a kid again." Grace Emery passed July 2011 at the age of 17.

Knowing that Jim Bashaw wouldn't want kids to miss a year of funds, the funds were shared by the two local community causes; in later years, a prize raffle was added to the event so scholarships could be given at both MVU and BFA high schools in Bashaw's name. Bashaw had connections to both schools, and had taught at MVU and taught and coached at BFA St. Albans.

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Shari Bashaw speaks to the 2021 Bellows Free Academy St. Albans Powder Puff football players about the Jim Bashaw Cancer and Catastrophic Fund this fall.

The students who participate in the Powder Puff game realize the event is bigger than themselves, and they are lucky to be able to participate for the one year they're seniors.

What do the students do to prepare for the game? BFA players visit Camp Ta Kum Ta before school starts each year, where they get a tour and volunteer for four hours. Both teams listen to chats by Shari Bashaw (Jim Bashaw Cancer and Catastrophic Fund) and Mike Campbell (Camp Ta Kum Ta) each year as they share their experiences about the two community groups that the event donates to and supports.

To be involved with the Powder Puff program, senior girls from both schools attend practices to learn plays and positions to prepare for the game. The girls also raise money from individual sponsors to contribute to the funds.

There are senior football players who help with both sides as well. They act as student coaches, giving them a chance to see the game from both sides. To be a student coach or a team captain, the students write a paper on what they can contribute to the event, what the event means to them, and what they hope to get out of it themselves. Players and student coaches from both teams also sell prize raffle tickets for the event, where the prizes are a minimum of $150.

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Mike Campbell talks with BFA St. Albans seniors about Camp Ta Kum Ta during the annual presentation held before the Powder Puff football game.

How can you help? Those who attend the game can help raise money for the charities by buying from the Booster Snack Bar, Oh Sweet Cupcakes, a 50/50 raffle, purchasing an event t-shirt, and buying tickets for the drawing of the prize raffle.

The game is a unique community event; the bleachers are always packed, and the crowds wrap almost to each goalpost. The Vermont National Honor Guard, John Brooks and Mark Knight from KOOL105, and Camp Ta Kum Ta representatives will also be at the event.

The numbers: This annual event (minus 2020) has raised over $210,000; every single penny has been given back to the community. All of the adults volunteer their time, and the students wait eagerly for their senior year to participate. Come support this amazing community event this Saturday!

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