HARRISBURG, Pa (WHTM) — It started as a warmup exercise for volleyball players, but freestyle volleyball, or pepper, is evolving into a sport of its own. Local enthusiast Dale Fallon uses his love of the game to raise funds for Special Olympics.
We met up with Fallon and his friend Bill Bonney at Negley Park in Lemoyne. They’re both avid pepper players, and both volunteer with the volleyball program for Area M Special Olympics, which covers Dauphin, Perry, Cumberland, and Northern York Counties.
Fallon and Bonney demonstrated how pepper is played and it is about as minimalist as a sport can get. Just an open area and a volleyball are all you need. Players, which range in number from one-plus-a-wall to infinity, bounce the ball back and forth.
“The rules are basically keep the ball in the air,” Dale said. “That’s it. You’re not allowed to catch it, and you’re not allowed to throw it.”
“And most importantly, you keep the ball off the ground,” Bill added. “And everybody can do it, every different level, and the better you get, the more creative you get, the more fun you can have. And it’s very good exercise when you get it going.”
Early last year, Fallon had an idea for how to use the game to raise money for Special Olympics. He calls it the Pepper Challenge.
“I did a little thing on Facebook, where I raised about three hundred dollars for Special Olympics in about five minutes,” he explained. “And that’s kind of what sparked the idea to do a larger pepper challenge, and last year we went for a large challenge and raised ten thousand dollars, and I’ve been kind of obsessed with it since, and decided I’d go just a little bit bigger this time and go for a million bucks.”
You read that right, $1 million for Special Olympics. Not to mention, one million hits on the internet.
“The million hit is my goal to complete within a year, and that averages about 3,000 hits a day, that’s something that, I know I can do a million hits unless something catastrophic happens,” Fallon said.
Part of the fundraising plan is a road trip to visit volleyball competitions across the U.S. This road trip kicks off Saturday, July 31, with a journey to Pittsburgh.
“We’ve mapped out a course driving across the country, to be in Chicago, and Aspen Colorado, and some other areas to be in tournaments and play with athletes of all kinds,” Fallon said.
The ultimate goal is Denver, Colorado.
“There’s a tournament in Denver called The Motherlode. Our goal is to be at that tournament, that’s Labor Day Weekend.”
Fallon has created a Facebook page for the Pepper Challenge, as well as a website where you can make donations:
Fallon hopes in the long run the Pepper challenge will generate more than money.
“The big picture goal is to bring the volleyball community together with the Special Olympics community, and to build that relationship, because they’re two communities with such big-hearted people, and bringing them together is just a no-brainer for me,” Fallon said.