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Donkey basketball game met with protests

20 Nov 2007
WNYT, Albany NY

JOHNSTOWN -- Protestors gathered outside a Fulton County High School Monday night, as a student group was inside trying to raise money. The fundraiser at Johnstown High School pitted juniors against seniors in a game of basketball. The issue wasn't so much the game or who was playing, but rather what the students were playing with.

The gym was packed and the students were ready to put on a show. But they would need some help from ten donkeys running up and down a basketball court. The teenagers hopped on, some more successful than others, each trying to put the ball in the basket.

"Just to get a good laugh at some of the seniors, most of the juniors. It's just fun," said student Andrew Ortiz.

This donkey basketball game was a fundraiser for Johnstown High School's International Club. But to a few protestors outside holding signs, the game is no laughing matter. They claim trotting these donkeys out onto a basketball court is just downright cruel.

"Because the participants think of this as a fundraiser, they think of it as a fun thing to do, a game, a way to raise money. They don't really think of the animals," said protester Shermirah Brachah

Brachah says participants can mishandle the donkeys because they're not used to dealing with the animals. She also says a noisy and crowded gym can be stressful on the donkeys.

"They're in a situation that they don't understand, forced to do things they're not even aware of," she said.

But this type of fundraiser is nothing new to Johnstown. The school's principal says they've been playing donkey basketball on and off for the past 25 years.

"I couldn't tell you why they decided this year they'd make an issue of it," said Principal Michael Beatty.

This was the first year there was a protest.

"I think it's ridiculous. They've been playing donkey basketball for years. Now all of a sudden they're freaking out, coming here with signs. I think its fun," said student Victoria Panetta.

"Like I said, everybody has their own point of view, to each their own," said Jeanette Klumbach, a mother of one of the players.

Johnstown's principal says the International Club will probably raise more than a $1,000 at the event. He say's the students will use the money to fund trips along with sponsoring foreign exchange students.

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