“I think I just joined Globo Gym,” Robert Buckley said after the first dodgeball game with his new team.
Buckley, 25, had played several seasons in a league run by nonprofit Healthy Buffalo. Bu after taking last season off because of his work schedule, his old team was full.
Undeterred, he approached Healthy Buffalo founder Chas Kirsch and said, “I want to play. I don’t care if you put me on a team with complete strangers — I just want to play.” Now, he’s on a team of local gym employees that, at first glance, reminded him of Ben Stiller’s over-the-top squad from the film “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story” — and he’s loving it.
“[The league] is competitive, but friendly at the same time,” Buckley said. “A lot of people are afraid to join because dodgeball is sometimes made out to be a bad sport where people get hurt, but it’s not. We’ve had people of all ages play.”
Dodgeball is one of several programs offered by Healthy Buffalo, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The organization that began with a single basketball league now includes several for men, women and children of various skill levels, along with programs for dodgeball, broomball, running and fitness, flag football and more. It also supports other organizations and events that get people moving.
“Our vision is to create a more healthy and vibrant community,” Kirsch says. “Buffalo has a reputation for chicken wings and a sedentary lifestyle, so we wanted to drive awareness for health, fitness and activity.
“One of our philosophies is that anywhere there’s a hole in what the community offers, we’ll fill it. And, wherever there’s already something in place, we’ll support it and get Healthy Buffalo teams in those leagues and events,” he continues.
Kaeley Biondo, a 19-year-old Buffalo State student, is a team captain in the broomball league, which plays on the ice at Canalside during the winter. She first joined as a way to stay active and enjoy the camaraderie of team sports.
“I’ve played sports my whole life, and I had just graduated high school and wanted to get involved in a sport again,” she said. “I love how relaxed it is. Teams are having fun with each other, and it’s not so competitive that everybody gets upset if they get scored on. And, it’s a good workout — you’re running around and exhausted by the end.”
To generate excitement, leagues routinely give awards for winners and MVPs, and some games livesteam on Facebook. Best of all, Kirsch said, is the breadth of participants — more than 2,000 individuals and families are part of Healthy Buffalo, representing all ages, skill levels and areas of the community.
“It’s cool when you see families that register their 6-year-old daughter in our basketball league and see her 35-year-old dad come out in our 30-and-over basketball league or in our running club,” Kirsch says. “We’re trying to get people to step outside of their comfort zone.”
For information on upcoming leagues, visit healthybuffalo.org.