By Sheila Covington
When the lockdown began in March 2020, our annual ping-pong tournament for charity, like so many things, was cut short. It was a long road back to the office, with the Emergency Response Team endlessly debating and determining the If’s, When’s and How’s of coming back together as a team again—something crucial to our company culture. Finally in June 2021, we were able to allow everyone in the office at the same time. The office was buzzing with energy again and some people who hadn’t seen each other in person for over a year were able to reconnect. It seemed like the perfect time to reintroduce some friendly competition. Salvador Ochoa said his favorite part was “the excitement people put into it…everyone really committed to it and got into the competition spirit.”
Every year Interra pledges USD$5,000 to charity for the ping-pong tournament. This year as preparation for the championship, each of the singles and doubles finalists selected a charity to play for, with the donation to be split between the winners’ charities.
On the day of the championship, the Culture Club brought in pizza, everyone ate lunch and then, donning their masks again, settled in to watch the championship matches. Some great volleys and amazing saves were seen from all sides. In this tournament, we play best two out of three games and each game to 21 points, with a two-point margin required to win. Majed Nassereddin and Juan Elizondo went head-to-head in the singles match and doubles team Olivio Quirino and Eric Tietz battled Juan Diego Noguera and Alejandro Vasquez. The doubles match was especially close, with the first game neck-and-neck, going well past the 21-point winning mark, for a Game 1 score of 25 to 23! The second game was also thrillingly close; Eric and Olivio were down for most of the game, but managed a 23 to 21 win, triggering a third game to determine the match winner. Five lead changes later, Alejandro and Juan Diego pulled it off with a final score of 21 to 16.
Juan Elizondo, our singles champion, played for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which treats and covers the cost of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Doubles champions Alejandro Vasquez and Juan Diego Noguera chose Lifeline Animal Project and EARTH University, respectively. Alejandro said, “I chose Lifeline Animal Project as they are a local 501 (c)(3) nonprofit center with a mission of ending euthanasia of animals in county shelters, which is near and dear to my heart.” EARTH University is a Costa Rica-based international school teaching agricultural sciences and natural resources management for the sustainable development of Costa Rica and other developing countries. Juan Diego said, “It makes you feel really good to help organizations in need during this hard time.”
Thus, the tradition continues. Majed said it best: “I always enjoy some friendly competition, even when being on the losing end. At the end of the day, it goes towards a good cause, and we had fun as a company. Looking forward to next year!”