Connected by disaster

Published 9:15 pm Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ken Parsons, right, owner of Knot Hole Station in Driver, shakes hands with Travis Burns, the principal of Page Middle School in Gloucester County, at the final Toss for Gloucester cornhole tournament Wednesday. Since April, the bi-weekly tournaments have raised $1,883 in donations for the school that was destroyed in the April 17 tornado.

Driver supports Gloucester

Ever since a devastating tornado swept through Gloucester, folks in Driver — where thoughts of that destruction brought back personal memories — have sought ways to help out.

For more than five months, people have flocked to Knot Hole Station to toss cornhole bags for a good cause.

Putting in two bucks in for every tournament played each night, players have been raising money all summer to donate to Page Middle School in Gloucester, which was devastated by the tornado that hit the county April 16.

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On Wednesday Ken Parsons, the owner of Knot Hole Station, and several other cornhole regulars presented their final donation to the middle school’s principal, Travis Burns.

“We hope you rebound the way we did,” Parsons told Burns after presenting him with the check.

With this donation and one in June, the cornhole tournaments raised a total of $1,883 for the school, which will go toward replacing instruments, sheet music and other band equipment that was destroyed in the tornado.

“To know people are thinking about us outside of our county, it’s amazing,” Burns said. “I really appreciate these people. To have them think about our community, it’s touching.”

He said the school and the community were torn apart by the storm, but both are rebounding and rebuilding.

Because the school was destroyed in the storm, some of Page students are currently being housed in two massive modular units on the Gloucester High School campus.

It serves all of the county’s eighth graders, while sixth and seventh grades are taught at Peasley Middle School.

Parsons said when he heard about the devastation the tornado caused in Gloucester, he knew he wanted to do something to help the community, especially the children.

He said it made him think back to 2008 when Driver was trying to recover from Suffolk tornado and how much helped the village’s residents received.

“We know what it’s like to be in a situation where you don’t have anything anymore,” Parsons said. “We wanted to show them with a little bit of work they can get back on their feet, just like we did.”

The cornhole tournaments started soon after the tornado hit with only a few players, he said, but they continued to grow.

“It started with two of us, then it went to four of us and then to 12 of us,” Parsons said. “It’s grown, and we’ve got people coming from all over.”

On average, about 20 players come out to enjoy the two to three tournaments on Wednesdays and Fridays, and there is a group of players who come out for almost every tournament, he said.

The group of regulars helped present the check to Burns on Wednesday.

To show his gratitude, Burns awarded Parsons with the school’s challenge coin, emblazoned with Page’s logo and mascot.

“It’s given to folks that go above and beyond the call of duty,” Burns said. “Mr. Parsons has done that, just that as have all of these people.”