Second annual pingpong marathon benefits Northampton refugee resettlement

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty returns a shot during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty returns a shot during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty returns a shot during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty returns a shot during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty returns a shot during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty, left, returns a shot from Sudi Jumapili, of Florence, during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Jumapili, of the Congo, who moved to the area 4 months ago with his mother, brother, four sisters and his sisters' three children, have been helped by the program. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty, left, returns a shot from Sudi Jumapili, of Florence, during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Jumapili, of the Congo, who moved to the area 4 months ago with his mother, brother, four sisters and his sisters' three children, have been helped by the program. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty shakes hands with Peter Williams, of Easthampton, during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Above, WHMP radio host Bob Flaherty, right, returns a shot from Sudi Jumapili, of Florence, during his second Pong-a-Thon to benefit the Welcome Refugee Program at Catholic Charities Agency, Friday, at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. Jumapili, of the Congo, who moved to the area four months ago with his mother, brother, four sisters and his sisters’ three children, have been helped by the program. Flaherty played for 12 hours straight. Below: Flaherty. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 10/13/2018 12:34:53 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Bob Flaherty, a local WHMP radio personality and pingpong aficionado, loved playing pingpong and was “pissed off” at the Trump administration.

That’s how Flaherty found himself playing pingpong for 12 consecutive hours Friday at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton to benefit refugee resettlement efforts in Northampton.

“We need to do something supplemental,” Flaherty said. “And that’s what this is.”

Flaherty’s connection to refugee resettlement work was inspired by his anger toward the current presidential administration.

“The portrayal of refugees from the Trump administration… it’s all based on fear,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty described western Massachusetts as a place, “that never succumbs to fear.”

“Instead of just holding signs, yelling on Facebook, what if you could actually do something to react to Trump’s rhetoric? You could actually do something tangible,” Flaherty said.

At Zing! on Friday, each challenger of Flaherty’s donated $50. If challengers defeated Flaherty, their donations were matched by the event’s corporate donors. Other patrons who did not challenge Flaherty but wanted to participate in the day’s event donated $15 and played pingpong in the center.

Northampton Mayor David Markewicz and Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle played against Flaherty on Friday morning. Other notable local officials who participated were Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, and candidates for state Legislature Jo Comerford and Lindsay Sabadosa.

Dean’s Beans, Sylvester’s Restaurant, and Greenfield Savings Bank funded special challenge grant hours.

All proceeds from Flaherty’s pingpong games benefited the Northampton Catholic Charities’ fund for Welcome Refugees Resettlement Project.

Catholic Charities resettles refugee populations in Northampton.

The organization began refugee resettlement work in October 2016. Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, the executive director of Catholic Charities, said that as the organization began resettling refugees in Northampton, funding started to become scarce.

Buckley-Brawner described the long process of arrival and the financial hardship many resettled refugees experience.

Although Catholic Charities’ contract comes from the U.S. Department of State, Buckley-Brawner explained the funding for resettlement work is not enough “for the work to be done to the fullness that one would expect it to be done.”

“We are asked to do a great deal, but funded very poorly,” Buckley-Brawner said.

For each refugee resettled by Catholic Charities the organization receives $1,000 to support administrative costs such as case-working and interpretation, Buckley-Brawner explained. Each refugee receives $1,125 for any personal expenses — including rent and security deposits for housing, household goods and other basic needs for resettlement.

As personal costs rise for resettled refugees, the fiscal strain becomes more difficult, Buckley-Brawner described.

“Funding that we used to try to seek to augment (costs) is just virtually not there anymore,” she said.

One of the tasks of Buckley-Brawner’s work is to assist and locate employment for resettled refugees.

She said she expected many of the refugees who settled in Northampton to attend the event with Flaherty.

Flaherty said events like a ping pong marathon, “can inspire people to get involved in maybe something they wouldn’t have gotten involved in otherwise.”

The event space was donated for the day by the founder and CEO of Zing!, Noel Abbott.

Abbott wanted to help facilitate the pingpong marathon.

For Abbott, the purpose of his table tennis center goes beyond the sport.

“I built a place of deep welcoming and inclusion,” Abbott said.

“Whether it’s me or anyone else on the team, whoever walks through this door will receive a deep, warm welcome,” he added.




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