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Sport of wizards comes to SUNY Potsdam in charity tournament

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POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam students took a few lessons from Harry Potter to raise money for charity Saturday at the college’s first “Quidditch for Cancer” tournament.

“We thought it would be a good way to raise money for charity, and it kind of exploded after that,” said Elise M. Mills, vice president of the SUNY Potsdam chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, a worldwide group of Harry Potter fans who are active in charity and activism.

The money raised Saturday was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Quidditch is the sport of choice for the wizards in J.K. Rowling’s hit series, and some die-hard fans have adapted the rules to play it here in the real world.

The game needs some tweaking before it can be played by those lacking magical abilities. As described by Ms. Rowling, Quidditch is played on flying brooms, with various pieces of enchanted sporting equipment livening things up.

In the real version, the brooms are gone, leaving contestants firmly earthbound. Dodgeballs take the place of Potter’s magical “bludgers.” The game ends with the capture of the golden snitch, an elusive flying ball in the wizarding world, and a fleet-footed college student wearing a yellow bandana in ours.

“It’s for a good cause, and it’s pretty fun. It was a good workout,” said SUNY Potsdam student Ancel G. Dorsey.

Four teams competed in Saturday’s tournament, and every player donated some money for the cause.

Each contestant came for their own reasons. Some were Harry Potter fans, others just wanted an unusual way to exercise.

“My mom is a survivor of breast cancer for 10 years, so I felt this was very important,” said student Michael Zupan.

Club president Toni M. Kelly said she was inspired to start a chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance because of her childhood love of the books.

“It kind of started out goofy. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Harry Potter group on campus?” she said.

She grew up in a military family, moving often, and J.K. Rowling’s coming-of-age saga provided one of the few constants in her ever-changing life.

“Reading the books brought me to a place where I felt safe,” she said.

Since the club was founded last semester the group has participated in several on-campus charity events. They plan to make the Quidditch tournament a regular event, doing more to advertise to attract larger crowds to future tournaments. Quidditch will return to the college in the spring.

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