QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Fifty years is a lot of time to play volleyball. That’s the anniversary coming up for a high school volleyball team’s annual event to support cancer research. Fifty years is a long time to do that, too.

The 50th annual Power of Pink volleyball tournament is bringing 30 high school teams to compete at Queensbury High School in October. It’s not the school’s first Power of Pink tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is the first one at full force since then.

“With COVID restrictions, and some schools not allowing teams to travel, it was detrimental to have a tournament at all – but we were able to do something,” said Queensbury girls volleyball coach Tyler Carey, who organizes the Power of Pink tournament. “This year we’re up to 30 teams, compared to around 20.”

At 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, teams from as close as Glens Falls and as far as Oneonta will gather at the high school to square off in support of people living with cancer. This year’s games have been named the “Power of Pike” tournament, and the logo on tournament merchandise bears the head of a Roman pike to match. But that’s not all the name means.

This year’s tournament honors a specific beneficiary: Jennifer Pike, a former Queensbury physical education teacher living with a rare form of blood cancer. The “Power of Pike” name is donned in her honor. Students wear bands representing different types of cancer, and Pike’s is represented by zebra stripes.

In the weeks and months leading up to the games, students fundraise, going door-to-door and working with local businesses to raise money for the Side-Out Foundation, which benefits metastatic breast cancer research. For students, the Power of Pink tournament has a legacy, not unlike that of the South High Marathon Dance in nearby South Glens Falls. Entire generations of classmates, across Queensbury and every other district to frequently take part, have stepped up to be part of the power.

“The greatest asset I have is an absolute army of people who just want to be part of it,” said Carey. “I have a few team parents who have been involved with it for eight years, and have the oldest daughter who has graduated after being a part of it, and now their youngest daughter is part of it. My own family has been part of it.”

During the games, the fundraiser will be supported with raffles and items for sale, as well as food trucks to give people a reason to stay for lunch as local student-athletes play. This year, a $10 raffle ticket will buy a chance at over $700 in Yeti-brand gear, including coolers and thermoses. The fundraiser is already running online, with a goal of $56,000 – which would break the tournament’s previous record, coming in at around $5,400.

Many teams playing this weekend will have faced off many times before – but the faculty will get their own turn. For the first time since before the pandemic, the tournament is including an all-faculty game, where teachers get to try their own luck at volleyball. Since it was held last, Queensbury Union Free School District has seen enough turnover that some teachers didn’t even know there was a category just for them. Now, they get to be part of the excitement, too.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, and the fight is far from over. When he thinks about the next 50 years of the tournament he has organized for over a decade, Carey gets as ambitious as a player determined to win. The Side-Out Foundation, which has benefitted from the game for decades, asked Carey for three wishes when planning this year’s games.

“I asked for pink volleyballs if they could provide those. I asked them to find a way to really honor the kids who raise the money. And then for one last wish, I hoped for some kind of volleyball celebrity or Olympian who could be here for the event. I have no idea – they’ve kept things pretty hush-hush – but we’re hopeful.”

The games begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 429 Aviation Road in Queensbury.