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March of Dimes Mudd Volleyball digs in

Mudd Volleyball returns to Orlando’s Lee Vista Center on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Mudd Volleyball returns to Orlando’s Lee Vista Center on Saturday, Aug. 25.

Sarah Wilson

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Every year for more than half a decade, Mike Alley gathers his family — brother, sister, nieces and nephews — for an annual volleyball tournament. They have a team name, matching shirts and a little family rivalry.

It’s all in good, clean fun, minus the fact that as he goes diving across the court for a spiked ball, he hits the court with a splash instead of a thud. He gets enough height on his jump to reveal his sneakers are fastened to his feet with silver duct tape visible through a substantial caking of mud, and his resulting impact sends out a wave splashing muddied brown water in the faces of his family-member teammates.

“Who doesn’t love an excuse to splash around in the mud with your family, especially for a good cause?” Alley says with a laugh.

On Aug. 25 more than 2,000 people will descend on the Lee Vista Center in Orlando. Split into 168 teams, they’ll surround and slosh into 28 2-feet-deep volleyball-court-sized pits of muddy water. And if they hit their goal, Mudd Volleyball Challenge co-founder Michael Compton says, they should raise near $200,000 in that one day for the March of Dimes.

“You not only have a good time, but you’re doing something great for babies,” Compton said.

The March of Dimes 20th annual Mudd Volleyball Challenge returns to Orlando’s Lee Vista Center, 5380 Lee Vista Blvd., on Saturday, Aug. 25. For more information on how to register a team for the tournament, visit mudvb.com. To learn more about the March of Dimes, visit marchofdimes.com

For the past 20 years, Compton and his Mudd Volleyball board volunteers from throughout Central Florida put on this all-day, down-and-dirty event. In that time, it’s grown from 11 teams up to 168 and raised more than $1 million for the charity, which supports premature babies and their mothers. Teams come from national airline chains such as AirTran Airways, local-run businesses such as Planet Smoothie in Waterford Lakes, and Orlando families like the Alleys.

“Sometimes it’s really nice to see your manager slopping out in the mud and dragging around,” says Marla Lauterette, board member and longtime participant through her company, Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America. “It’s a great dynamic to have.”

The best dynamic, Compton said, is that all the fun in the mud is ultimately for a good cause. Each team pays a $500 registration fee, but over the years Compton and his committee have come up with incentives to have teams raise more. A “Club Mud” offering shade from the sun, food and drinks and massages for $2,500, or, new this year, “Pig Penthouse,” which has individual butlers and massage therapists and access to an air-conditioned tent for those teams who raise more than $4,500.

“We really try to not only do our best to put out the best event we can, but to do what we can to raise the most money for March of Dimes,” Compton said. “That’s what it goes back to.”

Mike Alley says what keeps him coming back year after year is for the cause and the competitive outlet for some family fun.

“It’s a competitive thing if you like that, and it’s for such a great cause… it’s something I’d never miss again,” he said. “Even if I don’t play, I’d come to just sit and watch.”

It’s an event for all ages and groups, Compton says, as long as people don’t mind leaving a little dirtier than they came, but knowing it’s for the sake of a cause that benefits hundreds of thousands of moms and babies across the nation every year.

“Compared to holding a fundraising walk or something, this is different,” Compton said. “People don’t really go to a walk because it’s necessarily fun, they do it for fitness or exercise. With this they come out and have a blast.”