Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A New Tradition: The legacy of the Joshua Balara Memorial Powderpuff Tournament

The annual football tournament will continue after Balara’s class, the Class of 2024, graduates.

new-powderpuff.jpg

Courtesy of Stephanie Sowa

This article is featured in the 2024 Commencement & Reunions special issue.

For the Class of 2024, a cohort which is no stranger to loss, Commencement is also a celebration of life — and a reminder of those whose memories will endure on campus long after graduation.

One such reminder is the Joshua Balara Memorial Powderpuff Tournament, an intramural football tournament to honor the memory of Joshua Balara ’24, who passed away in March 2023 after an eight-month battle with adrenal cancer. Balara was a member of the Dartmouth football team and Gamma Delta Chi fraternity. 

The event, which has been held in June 2023 and May 2024 since its renaming in Balara’s honor, is hosted and organized through GDX. Last year, the event, which was called “PHrIday KKniGht LiGDXghts,” involved a single game between Alpha Phi and Kappa Kappa Gamma sororities that GDX co-sponsored. Beginning this year, however, eight teams played in the tournament, with the hopes that the event continues to grow, according to Balara’s former teammate and fraternity brother Gannon McCorkle ’24.  

Although many of Balara’s closest friends and teammates will graduate this spring, Eleanor Benton ’25, a member of APhi who was involved in last year’s event planning, said the responsibilities of organizing will be passed down to members of younger classes.

According to Tevita Moimoi Jr. ’24, one of Balara’s former teammates, the event remembers Balara’s kind nature and raises money for the Joshua Balara Scholarship Fund, which was organized by the Balara family in his honor. The scholarship provides a football player from Balara’s former high school — Dallas High School in Dallas, Pa. — an opportunity to attend college for a lesser cost, according to the Luzerne Foundation, the patron of the fund. 

This year, the Powderpuff Tournament raised more than $22,000 with the help of the Dartmouth and Upper Valley communities. A $5,000 scholarship was awarded to a member of the Dallas High School community on May 24, according to the Luzerne Foundation website, while the rest of the donations will be used for future years. If fundraising remains robust, the Balara family hopes to provide scholarships to multiple students each year, according to McCorkle, one of the principal coordinators for the Powderpuff Tournament.

McCorkle said the event’s organizers have clearly documented the planning process in order for future classes to more easily replicate the tournament. 

“I think a big emphasis on this year’s organization was keeping incredibly good track of what our process was and how we were able to go about making the event as solid as possible,” McCorkle said. “I put together a timeline sheet … that can be easily passed off from class to class.” 

McCorkle said he hopes that future organizers will continue to grow the tournament in new and creative ways, adding that he hopes the Hanover and Dartmouth communities, as well as fraternities, get more involved. This year, McCorkle said he and the event planning committee reached out to local Upper Valley businesses and town residents in order to garner support for the event, leading to the fundraising haul.

Moimoi Jr. explained that he feels the Dartmouth and Hanover community congregated around this year’s game. 

“The powderpuff game — despite being about football, the game itself — it’s more around the community, around the small town in Hanover,” he said. “The school and people who don’t normally cross paths with each other on campus can come together during this three-hour tournament in the spirit of the game, but also in the spirit of community and in celebration of Josh’s character.”

McCorkle said while he understands that the personal connection to Balara may wane over the years, the event should continue.

“As long as we continue to have the mission, we have that main focus of making it a fun event, obviously to remember Josh, even if there comes a point where people will not know Josh personally,” McCorkle said. “But they’re still able to enjoy a fun time … and still support him.” 

Madelyn Goebel ’25, a member of Kappa who helped plan last year’s game, said the tournament has made significant progress in just one year. Last year, only APhi and Kappa took part, but this year, eight teams signed on, according to Goebel. 

“[Last year,] we were able to easily gather our houses together and play the one game,” Goebel said. “In this year’s tournament style, with eight teams total, we opened it up to all the sororities, and then on top of that, [the] Dartmouth women’s ice hockey team.”

Benton said she felt the event’s “activity-based philanthropy” excited both her and her sorority sisters, who brought enthusiasm and character to the tournament. 

“I just noticed that a lot of my sorority sisters gravitate toward the same idea of wanting to band around a cause through activity,” Benton said.

McCorkle added that the Dartmouth community has bonded powerfully around Balara. 

“Josh got sick after sophomore year, so he wasn’t able to be around too much,” McCorkle said. “Still, the Dartmouth community was so there to support [his family], and two years after he left, they still feel comfortable enough and feel love for the community to come back and be a part of it. I think it speaks a lot to what we try to put together for the community as a whole.”

The spirit of community surrounding the event has been appreciated by the Balara family, according to a statement written by the Balara family. Balara’s father, Greg, his mother, Evelyne and siblings, Rebecca and Brendan attended this year’s tournament and expressed their admiration for the organizers and the Dartmouth community. 

The Balara family wrote in a statement to sponsors, participants and volunteers of the event that “it was so heartwarming to see so many people enjoying the event.” 

“To the students who organized the event, students who participated, faculty and athletic department, local businesses and everyone who donated to Josh’s scholarship fund, we can’t thank you enough,” Evelyne Balara wrote. “We are so grateful Josh’s memory is being kept alive.”