BRISTOL - The Mount Abraham Union High School PTO recently sponsored a donkey basketball tournament to raise funds for school programs, much to the delight of a large crowd who packed the schools gymnasium to watch teachers and members of the senior class handle - or more often be tossed by - a team of well-trained donkeys. The Bristol Police Force were the designated "poop scoopers" and performed their messy task with good humor, and a good deal of raucous audience encouragement.
The game was fast paced and exciting, although actually mounting a donkey turned out to be a daunting task for many of the participants. Staying on the donkey was equally challenging because the donkeys are trained to dismount riders whenever possible.
The riders had to abide by a strict set of rules, enforced by the donkey's owners, Green Mountain Donkeyball. The riders were given pre-game instructions about treatment of the donkeys and informed that mistreatment in any way would result in the immediate ejection of the rider. The donkeys could not be kicked, slapped, have their ears or tails pulled or twisted. Riders could only encourage - not force - their donkeys to walk in the desired direction. Shots to the basket could only be made by a mounted rider which lowered the scoring substantially. If a donkey happened to be hit by a wayward ball, the game would be called to a temporary halt and the person responsible for bumping the donkey was required to kneel before the offended animal and kiss it on the nose. In one case, a kiss was required at both ends, although it was not apparent what infraction merited such an elevated level of apology.
The event raised $3,200, after expenses, for the PTO Enrichment Fund which provides grants to teachers for items not included in their budgets, such as sponsoring guest speakers, helping with finance field trips and other school events that need a bit of a cash infusion.
"It was a very successful fundraiser," said PTO member Kathleen Clark, who organized the event. "It was a really fun event for people and I would love to do it again."