Longtime Cleveland Volleyball Tournament Spikes Charity Ties After Complaints

Volleyball and alochol mix well. Volleyball and charity do not.
  • Volleyball and alochol mix well. Volleyball and charity do not.

Saturday marks the 25th annual Mud and Grass Volleyball and Dodgeball Tournament at the Cuyahoga County Airport. It’s a Cleveland rite of summer known for its alcohol-fueled fun and for the nasty hangover it’s left a few charitable organizations in recent years.

After the 2007 tournament, Scene reported that director Scott Baltusnik was accused of shortchanging WAGS4Kids — a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled kids — which was set up to benefit from the event. Wendy Nelson, the group’s director, claimed she was promised $25,000 but was handed a check for only $6,000. The group filed a civil suit against Baltusnik, which was settled out of court. Both sides were barred from discussing terms of the agreement.

After WAGS4Kids spoke up, the Cleveland Fire Department fanned the flames with claims that it too was stiffed while staffing the event in 2005 and 2006. Cleveland Fire said it was promised $30,000 for charity but ended up with only $3,500.

Baltusnik’s special recipe appeared to change in 2008, when Big Brothers Big Sisters was initially listed as the benefactor but was suddenly dropped from the official website without explanation. Registration forms last year and this year included a disclaimer that the event no longer represents a specific charity. Instead, according to Baltusnik, a private donation was made to MetroHealth’s Life Flight program last year, and a similar offering is expected this year. (Learn more about the tournament at mudvolleyball.designsbyjiva.com.)

So what’s a thirsty, frisky yet socially conscious volleyball player to do? Drink up, play ball, and stay tuned for any further fallout.