Douglas – It was raining money around the steeple of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Douglas on Saturday morning, but it wasn’t pennies from heaven but rather $20s and $10s pulled into the sky by a freak wind tunnel.

There was also a lot of it as $800 from a fundraiser beach volleyball tournament for high school students flew into the air, some of it never to be seen again. Fortunately, no one was hurt during the freak incident, but the money was gone.

“The money was glittering as it flew straight up in the air,” said Dave Dobson, the organizer of the 4s beach volleyball tournament. “It went higher than the church steeple and then flew off over the fields. It just kept going.”

The funnel cloud was also very localized with others in the community not even realizing something had happened, but those at the volleyball courts will long tell the tale.

The tournament was a fundraiser and proceeds were intended to go towards sporting needs at area schools. There were also supposed to be cash prizes, but along with the fundraising amount, they were gone with the wind while the tournament was taking place. The tournament is one of many popular volleyball events in the hamlet in the courts behind the school and recreation centre. On Saturday the tournament did not only attract players from nearby schools like Opeongo High School (OHS) or the two high schools in Renfrew but from across the Valley. There were players there from Valour, Bishop Smith, Madawaska Valley District High School, St. Joe’s, Renfrew Collegiate Institute and Opeongo High.

“The kids were playing for medals, trophies and cash prizes,” he said.

The weather was calling for thunderstorms that day and it was hot and muggy with dark clouds but no wind, he recalled.

“It was perfectly calm, and a funnel cloud came up in the air,” he said. “The bills were passing up in the air past the far trees in the end. We had pages of paper which went with it.”

The funnel cloud descended right on the table where the score sheets and the cash for the entry fee was compiled. It all went straight up in the air and headed over the church steeple and into the fields.

Parent Bruce Howarth said it looked like a mini tornado.

“It was like a mini wind tornado like gust that just sucked it straight in the air and it kept going higher and higher until it was out of sight,” he said. “I would guess 250 feet in the air. It was crazy.”

The players and volunteers all scrambled after the money, he recalled.

“But it was too fast,” he said. “The money went over the church and across the highway into the bush and fields.”

Parent Michelle Chapin was enjoying watching the teens play when she noticed the wind was picking up.

“You could feel the wind and everything was just pulled up off the table, about 200 feet into the air,” she said. “Some of it landed in the rink.”

After the wind picked up the money and sheets, the volleyball players went scrambling to find them all.

“The farthest bill we found was in the mailbox across the street,” she said. “Who knew you needed a paperweight?”

In all $105 was found, which was far short of the $750-$800 which was on the table.

“There is over $650 missing, which is a lot for them,” she said. “It just went over the (church) steeple. We spent an hour looking in the field and that is all we could find.

“There might be some on the roof of the school (St. Michael’s School),” she joked.

What makes this story even more unusual is the $105 which was found was the exact amount needed to cover the cost of the t-shirts and trophies for that day.

“It was $105 and we recovered $105,” she said. “Everyone was in disbelief.”

The event is something she won’t soon forget, she said.

“It was something,” she said. “It was definitely a funnel cloud. It just went zoom over the church and into the field.”

None of the participants were too hopeful more money would be found following the initial hour-long search and they were also told the hay field is due to be cut this week, so the money may just be shredded.

“The way it is spread out, there is probably no way to find it anymore,” she said.

Mr. Howarth said if people find money unexpectedly in the area, they could return it to the Douglas Recreation Committee.
“That would be most appreciated,” he said.

He also mused perhaps an individual or business would like to donate some money to make up for the loss from the freak event.

Mr. Dobson said not only were the youth participating in the tournament disappointed, but the loss would also impact other athletes.

“This was a fundraiser,” he said. “We were hoping to donate to local schools.”

A long-time volleyball coach and promoter, Mr. Dobson does numerous fundraising volleyball tournaments. In the past some were held to enable the Opeongo High School team to attend tournaments in the East Coast. While the team is not going this season, there are other needs for the sports program which he was hoping to meet with these fundraising events.

The next tournament will be on July 8 and Mr. Dobson said the registration is open. There are openings for eight teams and the entry fee is $100 per team.

“Hopefully there will be prize money for the winners next time,” Mr. Howarth said.