By Nathan Mayberg
FALLSBURG November 12, 2004 World-famous actress Phylicia Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable, wife of Dr. Cliff Huxtable (portrayed by Bill Cosby) for many years on the popular television program The Cosby Show, was among the hundreds in attendance on Saturday afternoon for the first annual SYDA Foundation volleyball game at Fallsburg Central School.
Rashad was in attendance as national spokeswoman for Prasad, SYDAs major community service arm in the county. Rashad said she has been supportive of the organizations efforts throughout the world, primarily in India. Prasad has been a major force in the subcontinent, where it provides free medical care, education, Vitamin D-fortified milk and vision care. Rashad said the group plans to raise its level of involvement in HIV treatment and education, as well as educating locals there about water harvesting.
Rashad was just as proud of Prasads contributions in the United States, which includes providing free dental care and education to thousands of elementary school children each year.
Of the volleyball match, Rashad said everybody wins and everybody feels good about it.
Rashad, a native of Houston, Texas, said she has been coming to Sullivan County for many years. She just completed a run in Boston on a theatre production of August Wilsons Gem of the Ocean.
Rashad played Aunt Ester in Wilsons ninth play of a 10-play cycle about the African-American experience in Pittsburgh for each decade of the 1900s. Earlier this year, Rashad won a Tony Award for best leading actress, for her performance in A Raisin in the Sun.
Saturdays volleyball games raised a total of $11,535 for the Fallsburg school system. The SYDA team featured players from all over the world. The two officials were members of the Bulgarian Olympic womens volleyball team, whose friends are members of the local SYDA foundation.
The Fallsburg team was made up of teachers from the school district.
The SYDA team was chosen following a 16-team playoff at the foundation in an effort to turn out the organizations best players. They were coached by former professional volleyball player Stacey Griffman, who also played and coached at the University of California-Berkeley.
The first game was the most competitive. The Fallsburg team was able to engage the SYDA squad in multiple volleys, but was ultimately outclassed. Both teams put forth strong efforts, with some high-intensity, crowd pleasing spikes.
The crowd was quite enthusiastic, and made a lot of noise throughout the match.
The second game was completely lopsided, however, as SYDA turned out its best servers. Fallsburg was not able to return the fierce serving of the SYDA squad.
The third and fourth game mixed up the rosters of both teams for an entertaining and more evenly matched game. In the fourth game, the Olympic players faced each other on a mixed team of six and showcased their tremendous volleyball skills.
Larry Schafman, who handles public relations for the Fallsburg Central School District, said he was hopeful that the teams could meet up again in the future or that teams from other local agencies such as fire departments and police departments could engage in similar activities for fundraisers.
The day also featured a chance for young children to practice and learn volleyball basics and win a prize if they could hit the ball over the net and into a ring.
Lee Smassanow, a Fallsburg High School special education teacher, said the event was fantastic.
It was nice to see the community come together. Maybe well play them at a different sport [next time], he joked.
The sportsmanship was really great, Smassanow added.
Phil Motl, a physical education teacher at Fallsburgs Benjamin Cosor Elementary School, said that it was nice to have the community involved in the school. He said the volleyball match exemplified teamwork.
I thought the spirit of volleyball and the spirit of the foundation came together, said Ushi Patel, who works at the local SYDA Foundation.
Fallsburg Central School Athletic Director Brett Cancredi said it was great that two organizations came together.
They [SYDA] went above and beyond what was expected, Cancredi commented. We cant thank them enough for what they did.