Providence was definitely ready to rumble again on January 25th when more than 150 supporters filled SquashBusters Providence at Moses Brown’s Gorgi Center for the second annual SquashBusters Rumble, presented by Bank of America. They were treated to an exciting day of amateur and professional squash that featured the greatest collection of international squash stars ever gathered in Rhode Island. The event was held to raise critical funds for SQB Providence, which is now serving almost 60 Providence youth, and garnered over $277,000, thanks in part to corporate sponsors Parsons Kellogg, Brown Brothers Harriman, Westfield Capital Management, and Hall Capital Management Company.
Squash Legends Ramy Ashour, Nick Matthew and Peter Nicol, who boast seven individual World Championship titles between them, and Irish No. 1 Arthur Gaskin thrilled the Rumble players and guests with outstanding squash and highly entertaining banter throughout the day. Each star led one of four teams comprised of 10 singles and 3 doubles players that battled all afternoon to amass “Wave” points and attempt to win the coveted Rumble trophy.
Reprising his World Wrestling Entertainment opening, host John Nimick again donned a shoe-length black leather coat and slick sunglasses to belt out a thirty second “Are you ready to Rumble?” before referencing the venue as Zaffer’s Palace, in a tribute to SquashBusters founder Greg Zaff and his vision to bring SquashBusters to Providence. Nimick carried on to introduce the pros by their popular nicknames -King Arthur Gaskin playing for the Kilts, Nick “The Wolf” Matthew playing for the Rhode Warriors, Ramy “The Artist” Ashour playing for the Sharks, and Bonny Prince Peter Nicol playing for Off the Rails.
While Peter Gemma and Paul Salem’s Rhode Warriors and new Captain Stefano Crema and Julie Andrews’ Off The Rails battled valiantly, it was Tom Kellogg and Gaskin’s Kilts and Habib Gorgi and Bill Hatfield’s Sharks that went the distance as they entered the Pro round robin separated by a single point. In the end, first-time SquashBusters supporter Ramy Ashour carried the Sharks to the 2020 title by winning his last two games over Arthur Gaskin and Nick Matthew, edging the Kilts in the end one point.
Guest were treated to delicious food and drink by Providence’s own Plant City. But the individual who stole the show was SquashBusters seventh-grader, Isabel Perez Comacho, who overcame some jitters to speak movingly to the crowd about her journey to find confidence, explore new horizons and play better squash. Program Director and SquashBusters alumnus Rodney Galvao introduced Isabel with glowing and humorous insights and also reminded the crowd of the profound impact SQB has had on his life.
Founder Greg Zaff concluded the 2020 Rumble by thanking and recognizing Habib Gorgi, Bill Hatfield and their team of Sharks as the top fundraisers of 2020, awarding them the Tidal Wave trophy to match their championship trophies. He then brought the day to a fitting close by thanking all participants – Rumble players, volunteers and donors – for their generosity and passion to see a better future for every SquashBusters student.
To see more pictures of the day, click here.
A Year of Firsts!
November 2018 – Two of our very own students Natalia O’tero and Julio Barahona won their very first US Squash Tournament at Nobles Bronze.
December 2018 – We welcomed our new sixth grade class from DelSesto Middle School. Twenty-two students were recruited based on their work ethic, character and passion for the program.
January 2019 – We kicked off the new year with a trip to New York City to attend the professional squash event, the Tournament of Champions. One of the biggest tournaments on the professional squash tour, students were exposed to amazing squash and were able to meet top players from around the world, including Diego Elias, Camille Serme and Karim Abdel Gawad.
March 2019 – Sixteen students traveled to Yale University to compete in our very first Squash and Education Alliance (SEA) Urban Team Nationals Tournament.
April 2019 – SQB Providence partnered with Providence Parks and Recreation for a community service project with Madewell jeans. Students collected used jeans, which were then donated to Madewell and turned in insulation for houses of people in need.
June 2019 – Williams College hosted the SEA Urban Individual Nationals. Sixteen SQB Providence students competed against players from all over the country and the world, including New York City, California, and even Colombia.
With our first full program year complete, we are thankful for the students and families who have made a commitment to our program, our partners at DelSesto Middle School, Moses Brown and the Nicol Squash Club, and our supporters in the greater Providence community. We are looking forward to squash-filled summer!
Community Partnerships: Edesia Nutrition
Soon after opening the doors at SquashBusters Providence, we began to explore Rhode Island-based non-profits to partner with for community service projects. We were interested in finding an organization that would align with our mission and vision around giving back to our community, and a collaborative partner that we could both learn from and grow alongside. Luckily we didn’t have to look very far to find Edesia, an incredible company founded in 2010 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Navyn Salem. Navyn also happens to be the wife of SQB leadership council member, Paul Salem, so she had a deep understanding of SQB’s mission and goals. Navyn created Edesia after seeing a segment about a “miracle cure” for malnutrition on 60-Minutes. Edesia’s mission is to help treat and prevent malnutrition in the world’s most vulnerable populations through the delivery of ready-to-use foods (RUFs), delivered from their factory in Rhode Island into the hands of malnourished children all over the world.
For the past two summers, SquashBusters has taken approximately 40 students to the Edesia Nutrition factory in North Kingston, RI for a tour and information session. During our visits, students have had the opportunity to try the signature Plumpy’Nut product, to witness the factory’s state-of-the-art robot, Lucy, in action, and to hear testimonies from some employees who are refugees hailing from countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone.
This December , SquashBusters students collaborated with the Moses Brown high school squash team to package over 4,000 RUF packets. Unlike most of their products which are exported out of the U.S. to developing nations, the packets our students created contained a new formula used to prevent malnutrition in health clinics right here in Rhode Island, thus allowing our students to directly give back to the local community.
As a result of our partnership with Edesia, we have been able to provide our students with meaningful, impactful service projects and have developed our students into informed citizens about the world-wide issue of malnutrition. We are incredibly grateful for the partnership between SquashBusters Providence and Edesia, and are excited to expand our collaborative work in the years to come!
Our First-Ever SquashBusters Providence Rumble was a Smashing Success!
SquashBusters Providence hosted its very first fundraiser, the Bank of America SquashBusters Rumble, in January. Four teams competed against each other through a full day of squash to a packed house of over 200 spectators. They were able to learn about the SquashBusters program, watch some amazing squash, and hear from SQB seventh grader, Kealie Burt. This event welcomed top current and former pros such as Nour El Tayeb, Arthur Gaskin, Nick Matthew, and Todd Harrity. We appreciate everyone who was involved and came out to support us and help us raise more than $270,000. These funds are critical to SQB Providence operations and help us provide opportunities such as trips and tournaments to our students.
Summer at SQB Providence
The school-year may be done, but SquashBusters continues to be in full swing for the summer. Many students are attending camps or traveling around New England and around the country.
- SQB Summer Road Trip – Eleven middle school students will travel with staff to Washington DC, exploring New York City , New Jersey, Philadelphia along the way!
- SQB Summer Slam- SQB Providence students will be joined in Providence by their peers from SQB Lawrence for a two week squash camp.
- Squash Camps – Two students will be attending squash camp lead by former pro and Director of Infinitum Squash, Nick Taylor at Deerfield Academy. Two other students will travel to California for a week for squash training, lead by former pro Mark Talbott, one of the top Hardball Squash Players at Stanford University. Both opportunities will allow our students to improve their squash skills while exposing them to new people and places.
- A group of boys will have the opportunity to Westend House for summer camp.
Want more SQB news?
Providence was definitely ready to rumble on January 26 when more than 150 supporters filled the Gorgi Center for Squash and Education at Moses Brown School for the first annual SquashBusters Rumble, presented by Bank of America. They were treated to an exciting day of amateur and professional squash, as the afternoon culminated in a round robin among some of the best squash players in the world.
The event was held to raise critical funds for SquashBusters Providence, which is in its first full year of operation, and garnered nearly $270,000, thanks in part to corporate sponsors Parsons Kellogg, Brown Brothers Harriman, Westfield Capital Management, Hall Capital Management Company, the de Ramel Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
With an opening on Saturday afternoon straight out of World Wrestling Entertainment, host John Nimick donned a shoe-length black leather coat and killer sunglasses to introduce an incredible cast of pro squash stars, including Nick “The Wolf” Matthew, Todd “The Terminator” Harrity, King Arthur Gaskin, Bonnie Prince Peter Nicol and Queen Nour El Tayeb of Egypt. Fresh off his first victory at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions the night before, a result that will see him rise to World No. 1 for February, Harvard graduate Ali Farag was unable to participate after receiving a sudden and unexpected call-up to Egyptian military service, requiring him to return to Cairo.
With America’s top ranked PSA player Harrity at the helm, Captain Ashley Jacobs’ Rhody Scholars took top honors as Rumble One Champions, outpointing second place finishers The Sharks, captained by two of the Rumble’s top fundraisers Habib Gorgi and Bill Hatfield of Bank of America. The Sharks did come away with the equally prestigious Tidal Wave trophy, presented to the most successful fundraising team. The Sharks were led into pro battle by World No. 3 Nour El Tayeb. No quarter was asked or given in her three round robin matches against the gentlemen. Six time Irish National Champion Arthur Gaskin and former World No. 1 and World Champion Peter Nicol teamed up to lead The Kilts into third place, while former World No. 1 and World Champion Nick Matthew represented the Rhode Warriors, the Rumble’s second best fundraising team headed up Paul Salem and playing captain Peter Gemma.
Kealie Burt, a member of the Providence seventh grade team spoke movingly about how much the program has helped her and has become a second family. She remembered a time when she was in a cooking competition and none of her family could be there; her whole SquashBusters team and coaches showed up instead to cheer her on and see her win first place.
Founder and CEO Greg Zaff brought the day to a fitting close by thanking all participants – Rumble players, volunteers and donors – for their generosity and passion to see a better future for every SquashBusters student.
To see more pictures of the day, click here.
Join us Saturday, January 26
for the first-ever
SquashBusters Providence Rumble!
To Benefit SquashBusters Providence
Our mission is to transform the lives of our students through
squash and fitness, academic support, and character development. Our inaugural Rumble will raise critical funds for and awareness of SquashBusters Providence, improving the lives of our students and allowing our program to grow and thrive.
Come watch some incredible amateur singles and doubles, and what is sure to be a hotly contested professional round robin, featuring
- World number 3, Nour el Tayeb
- World number 2, Ali Farag
- Irish National Champion, Arthur Gaskin
- US National Champion, Todd Harrity
- Three-time World Champion, Nick Matthew
- Former World number 1, Peter Nicol
Schedule of Events
3:00 – Opening Ceremonies
3:30-6:30 – Amateur Round Robin Singles and Doubles
6:30-7:15 – Professional Round Robin
7:15-8:00 – Tidal Wave and Championship trophy presentations
In its very first year, SquashBusters Providence is already having a powerful impact in the city. With strong partners by its side, the program is serving nearly 30 students with a plan to eventually serve 110.
A Strong Start for SQB Providence
What an inaugural year it has been for SquashBusters Providence! During the 2017-2018 year, the newest SQB site has emerged on the scene and celebrated many important milestones:
- November 2017: In conjunction with the Providence Public School District, we introduced the sport of squash to over 300 students at DelSesto Middle School, our 1,000-student school partner.
- December 2017: Joined by our friends at Moses Brown School and Nicol Squash Club, we opened the new 12-court, 2-classroom Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center.
- February 2018: We named twenty-eight DelSesto 6th grade students to the inaugural SquashBusters Providence team – an event that was covered by The Providence Journal.
- May 2018: We hosted the SquashBusters Invitational tournament, where 90 students from all three SQB sites competed against each other for the first time.
- June 2018: One of our students, Kealie Burt, was honored by Governor Gina Raimondo as a winner of the Relish Rhody Recipe Contest; and 11 students represented SQB Providence at the Urban Individuals Tournament.
In addition to these bigger events, we also ran over 80 days of programming, visited Harvard University and Trinity College, watched high-level college squash at the men’s and women’s national tournaments, and performed community service around the greater Providence area. In addition, 100% of our students played in at least one competitive squash match, and many officially have the squash “bug”!
Strong partnerships have been a core part of our inaugural year in Providence. Our Leadership Council, a group of local stakeholders that meets monthly, has helped us expand our networks and establish a strong funding base around the city and state. They are leading the charge as we ramp up to our first-ever SquashBusters Rumble, a fundraising squash tournament scheduled for January 26, 2019, that is built on the model of the successful MFS SquashBusters Derby in Boston. Already, Bank of America has proudly signed on to be Title Sponsor of the Rumble!
The teachers and administrators at DelSesto have helped us get up to speed with the academic expectations and programs in the Providence Public School District. We have shared best practices, strategized about how to support students in many different subjects, and attended parent-teacher conferences.
Finally, we have built strong relationships with the families of our students, most of whom have visited our building to support their kids on the courts and in the classroom. We will start our first ever Family Committee in 2018-2019, and so appreciate the on-going presence of all of our students’ families!
We have many exciting plans for the year ahead, starting with summer programs around Providence for squash, academics, and enrichment. In September we will also add new students to our community, with our original group moving into 7th grade and taking on important leadership roles for our new crew of 18 DelSesto 6th graders. We are proud of our first year and psyched to embark on year #2!
SquashBusters Providence Partners Up for Success
During the spring, summer, and fall of 2017, all eyes were on a construction site on the corner of Hope and Barnes streets in Providence. The Gorgi Family Squash and Education Center, the permanent home of the Moses Brown School squash teams, SquashBusters Providence, and Nicol Squash Club, now sits on this edge of the MB campus. The vision for this facility was that it would be a welcoming, accessible space where a diverse group of squash players could unite over a love for the game – in the seven months that the building has been open, this kind of environment is already coming to life.
The Gorgi Center officially opened on Saturday, December 9th, 2017, in the middle of an early snowstorm. We welcomed over 200 people to the facility for speeches, tours, and a squash match between the Moses Brown and SquashBusters Boston varsity teams. Later that night, former world squash number 1 player Peter Nicol played Arthur Gaskin, the 7-time Irish national squash champion and resident pro at the Gorgi Center, in an exhibition match. It would not be an overstatement to say that the building has been full ever since that day!
While the partnership between Moses Brown, Nicol Squash Club, and SquashBusters Providence is based on a shared space, it has become so much more throughout this year. Arthur, the resident pro at NSC, has shared his time and expertise with our students by welcoming them to clinics, summer camps, and private lessons, as well as hopping on court to play informally whenever he has time. The club currently has over 300 members, many of whom have played alongside our students at some point – especially on Saturday mornings when the club is particularly busy!
Our connections at Moses Brown started with the squash teams and have extended throughout many different parts of the school. We piloted a reading buddy program with the Middle School Service Club where 8th graders worked on literacy projects with our students, and also welcomed the Upper School Service Club to programming during their spring break. We also have a solid cadre of 8-10 upper school student volunteers who spend time with our students on the court and in the classroom. SquashBusters students have visited the ceramics studio, worked with teachers from the innovation hub, and participated in the World Peace Games on the MB campus.
Already, the Gorgi Center is a true community squash hub, just as it was envisioned to be. We are excited to see what lies ahead here in the space, and hope you’ll come visit us to see the magic in action!
Student Spotlight: Kealie Burt
Kealie Burt is not your typical 6th grade student at DelSesto Middle School. She is an academic all-star, a member of the first-ever SquashBusters Providence team, and an accomplished writer and winner of the 2018 Relish Rhody contest, a state-wide competition put on by Governor Gina Raimondo. This week, we sat down with her to get to know her a little better.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I am from Providence, Rhode Island, but my family is from Mexico and Guatemala. I live with my dad and my six sisters. Next year I am going to a new school called TAPA (Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts) to double major in dance and music.
What made you try out for SQB?
I remember when Ali and Rodney came to our gym class to show us how to play squash and I really liked it. The next week, my dad and I came to the parent-teacher conference and SquashBusters had a table. I remember Ali and and Rodney saying, “Hey! Do you wanna join SquashBusters?”, and my dad told me I should try out, so I did.
What was your favorite memory from this year?
My favorite memory from this year was when we went on the girl’s trip to Boston and there was a big spider on the bus. Everyone started screaming and it was really funny. Luckily, I was sitting in the back, so I wasn’t close to it!
What’s the best thing about SquashBusters?
Everything— hanging out with friends, trips and tournaments, and spending time with your coaches.
What do you want to do after college?
I want to go to law school to become a lawyer. I love watching shows about lawyers and, in my real life, I like arguing with people just to make a point. My dad always tells me I would make a good lawyer.
What are three words your friends would use to describe you?
Creative, smart, and corny.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my mentor at church, Sonia. She has a really good job and is really organized. She helps me with my school work and I help her plan events at church. I also look up to my coaches, Rodney and Ali, because they help me with squash and academics and both of them are cool.
What advice do you have for the new 6th graders next year?
My advice to the new 6th graders is pay attention at squash when Rodney is speaking, and at school, make sure you study and hand in your work on time. Oh, and keep track of your stuff at squash and don’t lose it, like me!
Anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to?
My SquashBusters Providence teammates because they always try their best and give 100% effort!