Northwood resident Julie Fahrbach was one of those people who always cared about fundraising for non-profit organizations dedicated to severe illness.
Then, she was struck herself, passing away at age 52.
“She was a huge advocate for fundraising things in Toledo,” said daughter Ruth Kreager, a 2004 Northwood High School graduate.
“She worked for the Victory Center, which is a cancer center in Toledo. It’s a great organization — I’ve helped support it with a couple events. She was head of the fundraising there for a couple years, and then she worked downtown for Goodwill Industries, so she did a lot of fundraising for non-profits,” Ruth continued.
Ten days after Julie started experiencing her first symptoms from brain cancer, she passed away. One of the fundraisers she helped out with was the Pollyball Tournament, held annually at The Docks beach volleyball complex in International Park, East Toledo.
Left: Louis and Ruth Kreager. Above: Oregon resident and Northwood native Ruth Kreager serves at this year's Pollyball Tournament. (Press photo by Russ Lytle)
“The Pollyball that year was two months before she died,” Ruth said. “She had come to it that year and taken pictures for our team, but she didn’t volunteer that year for the actual event. We had no idea. It was just real quick and sudden.”
Now Ruth and her brother, Louis Fahrbach, are continuing in her footsteps. Ruth is the office manager for Hires Dental Care in West Toledo, which in recent years entered a team in the Pollyball Tournament.
“(Louis) has been playing for our team the last few years, but he doesn’t work for Dr. Hires or anything. He is going to school and working for a lawn and turf company in Oregon,” Ruth said.
The 22-year-old Louis, a state qualifier in golf while at Northwood High School, is now a senior at Tiffin University.
Family and athletics have always been important to Ruth and Louis. Louis, the only golfer in his family, started playing golf at age 5. He once told The Press that his grandfather, Paul Tritch, used to take him to play Putt-Putt after church during the summer. After his grandfather passed away, his grandmother, Carolyn, took him to take golf lessons in Fremont, and that led to a storied prep golf career.
The choice for the siblings to continue their mother’s involvement in the Pollyball Tournament was an easy one.
“It’s kind of near and dear to our heart because it’s something she loved to volunteer for and help out with,” Ruth said.
This year, out of 52 teams, Hires Dental Care finished in second place at the 22nd Annual Pollyball Tournament held August 24. Ruth says entry fees for teams to enter can cost between $750 and $1,500, and include different packages, plus the tournament offers food and drink tickets and activities for children.
The tournament draws thousands — each team has six to 12 players, plus dozens of volunteers.
“You don’t have to be a Toledo resident — it’s mostly businesses that do teams, but you can get together a private team if you wanted to,” Ruth said.
The tournament is named for Toledo resident Polly Hylant-Tracy, who lost her battle with cancer in 1990. Her husband, three daughters, and family wanted to remember her in a special way and many options were considered.
As the family pondered ideas from donating a park bench to planting trees in a Metropark to reflect her love of the outdoors, the idea to host an annual volleyball tournament in her honor was born. The large family often played volleyball in Polly’s backyard, and this was the perfect way to honor Polly and raise money and awareness for breast cancer.
What began as a small fun and fund-raising event at the LaJolla beach volleyball courts formerly off Reynolds Road, attracting 20 teams who paid and played on behalf of the American Cancer Society, has grown into the huge event held every August at the beach volleyball courts at International Park.
The day begins with family friend Phil Barone playing her favorite song, "White Bird," by It’s A Beautiful Day. The magical and prophetic lyrics set the tone for this unique tribute. Her favorite song ends with, “White bird must fly or she will die.” Polly may have physically left this world, but she can still be found in the actions and eyes of her daughters, Rachel, Lauren and Sarah, and in the hearts of her many family members and friends.
This year, Pollyball reached the $1 million mark to support breast cancer detection and awareness programs, including ACS, the YWCA as well as the University of Toledo Medical College for cancer research, The Victory Center and Reeling and Healing Inc.
The YWCA of Greater Toledo’s ENCOREplus Breast Cancer Awareness and Assistance Program is a comprehensive education and breast cancer resource center. Breast health education sessions are provided free of charge to various community agencies, shelters, apartment communities, senior centers, clinics, health fairs, and any other areas where underserved women congregate. Over 1,600 women in the Greater Toledo area were educated on breast cancer early detection methods in 2010.