The Fort Lee Lady Bridgemen volleyball team held its first home state playoff match since 1996 Thursday, beating Lakeland, 2-1, even after dropping the first game.
But the event was more than just a volleyball match; it doubled as a disaster relief drive in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Originally organized by Fort Lee freshman volleyball coach James Puliatte, who urged people to bring relief items for storm victims to the pre-match rally, the donation drive grew to include all of Fort Lee’s schools, and the result was two full vans of goods and supplies that were sent to Jersey City.
“I was truly proud to see how our students stepped up [Thursday] and all the administration that was at the game supporting them,” Puliatte said in an email after the match, which had to be moved from Wednesday to Thursday because of the snowstorm that hit after Sandy. “I don't think it could [have gone] any better.”
Fort Lee Board of Education member John Bang, who participated in the drive, said, “Big things come from little beginnings.”
At the Fort Lee BOE meeting Monday, Bang talked about the success of the drive.
“We tried to obviously help people in need in Fort Lee if possible, but in Fort Lee, we kind of got back on our feet,” Bang said. “We sent it down to Jersey City because they are really suffering out there, and they sent me a very, very warm letter of thanks.”
He added, “Their food bank was empty, and we pretty much stocked it up. It just goes to show you the kind of people we have in this town.”
Puliatte, who sent out emails on Tuesday and Wednesday last week seeking support on short notice for the drive that ultimately took place on Thursday, was more than a little excited about the response, saying the event made him “proud to be a Bridgeman.”
Puliatte also called the fitting state playoff win “an exciting match for our girls.”
“Even after losing the first game, they just kept fighting, never gave up and showed that true Fort Lee toughness and spirit,” he said.