It was survival of the fittest Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church’s Family Life Center as friends, family members and neighbors ducked, dipped, dived and dodged in an effort to take out the opposing teams.

After three minutes, the team with the most people still standing moved on to the next round.

This is dodgeball, which has become an annual tradition for members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Papillion.

The family event started off as an annual foosball tournament that coincided with the Super Bowl. Four years ago, youth and family minister Matt Pearson decided to switch from foosball to dodgeball, as he had played it plenty of times with his youth group, and thought it would be an activity that would appeal to all ages.

So far, the event has grown more popular every year.

“I knew it was something that would attract a crowd and be fun,” Pearson said.

For the past two years, the dodgeball competition has not been aligned with the Super Bowl, which Pearson prefers since many of the competitors left early to go to various Super Bowl parties instead of staying for the rest of the tournament.

For some of the players, it was just like many nights playing dodgeball during youth group. For others, the day brought back memories of a sport not played since grade school.

Each year Pearson hears from many of the adults about just how exhausted they are after the competition ends.

“Most of them can barely move their arms on Monday, but they have a lot of fun,” Pearson said.

Many others just come to watch, including parents and grandparents.

“It’s kind of neat to have a diverse crowd of people just sitting and watching,” Pearson said.

Seventeen teams competed this year, a record for Trinity Lutheran. Ages ranged from third-graders to grandparents, sometimes on the same team. Each game was only three minutes, and the team with the players still on the court when time ran out could move on to the next round.

“It’s kind of one of those things that everybody asks about now,” Pearson said. “We get a lot of non-Trinity people there. It’s a couple other churches and just random kids that are connected to my kids from youth group.”

Most came with teams already formed, but about 20 people just showed up ready to play, willing to join any team available. Although the winning team went home with gift cards, the biggest prize for them was bragging rights.

“Bragging rights is a big deal, especially when they all go to youth group together. They’ll come Wednesday night bragging about the dodgeball tournament,” Anita Willard said.

Willard’s son, Nate, competed in the tournament.

Pearson also hopes the competition helps expose people to The Raining Season, an orphanage in Sierra Leone where dodgeball proceeds are donated.

Trinity Lutheran offers a service trip for members of the church to the orphanage every summer, and the church has partnered with the orphanage since 2009. Pearson estimates more than $1,200 was raised Sunday for the orphanage.

“It’s a different group that is willing to contribute to something that they wouldn’t normally contribute to,” Pearson said.

After the successful turnout of the dodgeball tournament on Sunday, Pearson believes this event will continue into the future.

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