Croup’s Corner – Volley for Vision reaches new heights

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

Ten years ago, the Point Park volleyball team started a tradition that has grown stronger with every passing year.

It goes beyond a tradition of a pregame ritual or a celebration after victories. It even goes beyond the winning tradition that the volleyball program has instilled over the years.

The team’s annual Volley for Vision game started 10 years ago to raise awareness and money for the Vision Research ROPARD Foundation dedicated to battling problems of low vision and blindness due to premature birth.

Mike Bruno, the full-time Point Park volleyball head coach since 2005, is also a full-time father of two. His youngest daughter Cassie was born prematurely at 25 weeks and diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder that causes blindness.

When Cassie was almost three-years-old, the Point Park volleyball team began raising money and awareness at one game each year. Now, the team raises money for the Team Cassie Fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation to spread awareness, acceptance and inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

Team Cassie has grown over the years to the point we saw Saturday. The foundation made its first grant donation Saturday, one that holds a special place in the family’s heart.

A $1,000 check was presented to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind from Team Cassie between sets two and three of the game Saturday.

“That’s where the whole journey started for our family,” Mike Bruno said. “Cassie went there at the age of three up until kindergarten. It’s really gratifying that our first grant is to the school for the blind. They really helped us through a tough time as a special needs family.”

The team added to this year’s Volley for Vision festivities with a clinic on the court with Cassie and other special needs children. 

The players and clinic attendees alike were all smiles after Point Park won the match 3-1 against Ohio Christian University on a day that had so much more meaning than a final score.

They were smiles before the game, too.

Music therapy plays an important role in Cassie’s life. A performance of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” went viral over the summer and caught attention of the pop singer, who sent Cassie an autographed shirt and message of thanks after seeing the video.

One of the songs in Cassie’s repertoire was performed for the Student Center Gym crowd and players before the game Saturday: The Star Spangled Banner.

With her sister Carly by her side, Cassie sang the national anthem prior to the first serve, setting up another touching and inspiring Volley for Vision game.

“She never ceases to amaze me with her singing,” Bruno said.

Each school and each program has traditions. Some are historic, some get a team going and others will eventually fade away.

If Saturday is any proof, the tradition of Volley for Vision at Point Park will only continue to grow and expand for a very, very long time.