The 5th Annual Hood River Invitational was held on May 31st — June 1st at the Elks Lodge in Hood River, Ore.
Over 40 players from Oregon and Washington were invited to the popular event to celebrate the end of Oregon’s indoor handball season, begin the outdoor handball season and support a worthy cause, according to a press release.
Players and fans rolled into Hood River on Friday afternoon for a variety of games. Some players opted for a round of golf at the Hood River and Indian Creek courses before heading to Oak Grove park for one-wall handball and a barbecue.
The weather was beautiful and the handball games continued until dusk, at which point the players headed back to the Elks Lodge to begin a night on the town, said a press release.
On Saturday morning, the four-wall main event began, with 12 teams in the division one bracket and eight teams in the division two bracket.
In division two, local players Jennifer Hinman and Ron Harder defeated Eugene ambassadors Randy Stender and Doug Woods in the final. Hinman showed that even after a great pro career, transitioning to motherhood and recently undergoing a knee replacement, she still has the shots to win championships, dominating the match by a score of 21 to 6, said a press release.
Prior to the finals, a special exhibition match took place between four members of the Horizon Christian School handball team. All other matches were put on hold as the entire tournament stopped to watch this special event take place. Eighth grade student Caleb Yuan and senior Josh Aguilar defeated freshman Josh Rogers and eighth grader Jacy Johnston to win the two game exhibition match, which included a number of great hustle plays, long rallies and even a roll out kill shot by Josh Rogers, said a press release.
In the Division one final, 2017 champion and 2018 semifinalist Kyle English teamed up with co-host Andrew Stenberg to face co-host Stephen Stenberg and Southern Oregon star Sean O’Connell. English once again found his championship form to regain the Hood River crown, dominating the action from the left side as Andrew guarded the front court. The pair won the two-game final by a score of 15-7, 15-13.
Following the action, the annual year ending banquet was held in the Elks Lodge banquet hall, and it was packed to capacity with players, spouses, friends and handball fans. Included in the audience were the special guests and beneficiary of the tournament, the Strong family.
Bailey Strong, an eight-year-old girl, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, among other issues, at a young age. The Strong family was told that she may never be able to walk, let alone run, and her prospects for being able to develop relationships and make friends were unlikely.
However, Bailey has beaten the odds over and over as she has grown, not only walking but running 12 laps in a school fun run, said a press release. Additionally, her parents were overwhelmed with joy in reporting that Bailey has made many friends in school.
Bailey recently required a leg surgery to correct a twisting of her lower leg bone, requiring doctors to break the leg and reset it. Bailey is recovering ahead of schedule and the Strong family are in good spirits.
The 2019 Hood River Invitational raised over $6,000 for the Strong family to help with medical bills and other costs associated with Bailey’s journey, according to the press release.