hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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August 1, 2013

A fun way to provide food

Teens' backyard tournament brings meals to the needy

The game of team handball is an Olympic sport you don’t hear much about.

But it’s been making a big splash in the yard of one Haverhill family, where every tournament played has resulted in a small bounty for a local food pantry.

Local teenagers eager to participate in these fast-paced games organized by George Bonner, 18, and his brother Matthew Bonner, 15, of Russett Hill Road are asked to bring food items as their fee to play.

The Bonner boys have been holding tournaments in their yard for the past four years and give the food they collect to the panwtry at All Saints Church, which provides food to struggling people.

“We’re not too strict about the rules and we play it sort of like a pickup game,” Matthew Bonner said. “We love it. Kids talk about it in the days leading up to each tournament and in the days following.”

Handball, called field handball when played outdoors, mixes the rules of soccer and basketball into a sport that encourages defensive goal-keeping and cooperation among teammates to create passes.

George Bonner, a former captain of Haverhill High’s swimming and diving team, said he first learned of team handball during the 2008 summer Olympics.

“My brother and I watched some matches and it seemed like something we wanted to try,” George said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Why haven’t we played this already and why hadn’t we heard about it?’”

“The more we played the more we thought to organize a tournament and recruit our friends from the high school,” said George, who lured players from his Classical Academy classes at Haverhill High.

Their first tournament was in March of 2010 and it was a big hit.

“We had maybe 20 kids, but every subsequent tournament had more players,” George said. “Once we reached 30 kids in 2011, we decided to turn it into a fundraiser, with entrants bringing at least one canned good item.”

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