A ‘heartwarming’ tournament for Waylon Sauer

Former classmates organized a basketball tournament for the former MVRHS student.


Hundreds of Islanders flooded the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School gymnasium on Sunday to remember Waylon Sauer during an inaugural basketball tournament.

Students and classmates organized the annual Waylon Madison Sauer Memorial Basketball Tournament, named in honor of the MVRHS junior who passed away tragically in a single-car crash in November last year.

The high school Junior Student Council organized the event as a way to do something to support their grieving community and to celebrate the life of Waylon.

“After Waylon passed, our class really wanted to do something to bring people together,” organizer and junior class president Tayna Silva said. “As soon as the news went out that the tournament was happening people were like, ‘How can we help?’ ‘How can we play?’”

Junior class co-advisor Nell Coogan spoke to the unexpected community engagement. “Within 48 hours of putting out a request for sponsors, we got such a tremendous response that we were like, ‘Okay, we’re doing this!’”

And Friends and family attending Sunday’s tournament say they were overwhelmed by the support.

“Walking into this gym and seeing all the people was so heartwarming, and brought me to tears immediately,” Waylon’s mother Wenonah Madison said.

Over 55 island companies and organizations sponsored the event. MVRHS students and faculty members volunteered as scorekeepers and snack vendors.

The day opened up with an introductory honor song performed by members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in tribute to Waylon.

The basketball tournament began shortly after, consisting of 16 teams with players varying in ages and experience. Games were played 3v3 in 8-minute rounds, with each team playing 3 games. The top four teams then went on to play in brackets.

Adult team YMCA, consisting of YMCA employees — who happened to be high school alumni — and team Story, consisting of MVRHS current varsity boys basketball members, both won their brackets and moved on to the final championship game.

The game was an intense battle, but team YMCA ultimately was able to maintain their lead and win with a score of 23-32.

“It was good competition for a good cause,” Michael Trusty of the victorious team YMCA reflected on the day.

“Win or lose, it was great to play for Waylon,” said Sam Zack, from team Story.

Two awards based on exemplary sportsmanship were given to MVRHS junior Miles Hayes and community member and MVRHS alumni Mya Houston.

The day was about more than just basketball. It was also about benefiting a scholarship honoring Waylon’s academic and characteristic legacy: the “Waylon Madison Sauer Scholarship” fund, founded by juniors Kert Kleeman and Otis Forrester.

During the tournament, Kert and Tayna took a moment to thank all participants for their support and for upholding Waylon’s legacy.

Kert closed out the acknowledgements by thanking Waylon’s mother, Wenonah: “Nonie, thank you for sharing Waylon with us,” he said.

The students created the fund in the project-based class “capstone” at MVRHS. Capstone teacher Christine Ferrone spoke to overseeing this scholarship project. “They’ve been totally devoted,” she said. “They’re doing a great job.”

“The turnout at today’s event is unbelievable,” Ferrone added, reflecting on the event as a whole. “It’s a real tribute to Waylon’s legacy and memory — It’s a pleasure to be a witness to it all.”

Of all funds raised through the event, 75 percent will support the “Live For Waylon” scholarship, with the remaining 25 percent going to the junior class.

After the tournament, organizers say they were happy with the outcome and how well the spirit of the day represented Waylon.

“The way these kids and adults are playing is so respectful and fun. But they’re also playing hard.” Nell said. “It’s everything we talk about when we think of Waylon,”

Erin Slossberg, junior class co-advisor and family friend, reflected on the day. “The energy felt like a big hug,” she said. “He would’ve been on the court loving this,”

And Waylon’s family was grateful for the support.

“I was so sad to my core that he wasn’t here because he would’ve loved this event,” Waylon’s mother Wenonah Madison said. “His friends, community members, and coaches were participating — that would’ve meant the world to him.”