CHARLOTTE: Shortly after I was diagnosed with ALS, my son, Andrew, came up with the idea of having an annual softball game to raise funds for victims of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS). Whatever Drew knows about fundraising and promotion he did not get from me because even before I had the disease I was fortunate to even raise my hand, much less funds.
In fact, I no longer live in a world where a “high five” is a reality. “Low fives” are the best I can do, and I am thankful for that.
The ALS Softball Challenge – Lou’s Yanks against Bob’s Sox
Having been born in New England, I am a lifelong Red Sox junkie. Dad was born in 1919 and died in 2003. Born one year after the Sox won the series in 1918, sadly dying the year before they won it again in 2004. During my dad’s entire life he never saw Boston win the World Series.
The ALS Softball Challenge came to fruition in July of last year. Honoring the story of Lou Gehrig, the Hall of Fame New York Yankee first baseman who brought awareness of ALS to the limelight, the first game raised more than $16,000.
Using the longtime American League rivalry between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the softball match-up pits Lou’s Yanks against Bob’s Sox.
In the inaugural contest, players were allowed to sign up to play for either the Yanks or the Sox. The entry fee was to contribute $100 which could be obtained from donations by family sponsors, friends, businesses or any other means to raise money.
Members of the Covenant Presbyterian Church choir sang the National Anthem, players were given caps and ALS tee shirts, refreshments were provided including Ballpark franks, there was a live auction and, best of all, the Sox rallied from 16 runs down in the bottom of the fifth to win the game in dramatic fashion!
Local television personality, John Carter from the CBS affiliate, WBTV in Charlotte, was there. He provided commentary and play-by-play for the crowd of several hundred people who showed up to support the project.
The Annual Lou’s Yanks against Bob’s Sox fundraiser
In the end, the softball challenge was such a rousing success that it is now an annual event. In 2018, the game will be on Sataurday, May 19 at 10 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church.
Using the maiden voyage of the event as a means to build upon, this year will be even better. Come out to enjoy a live band, a raffle that will include a child’s bicycle and, of course, traditional Ballpark Franks and soft drinks.
There are no age or gender restrictions for players. Everyone who wishes to play can sign up for the game. However, there is also plenty of room for fans to throw their support to defeat ALS without having to compete.
Lou Gehrig, Stephen Hawking and more
Lou Gehrig was, of course, the most prominent name among those who struggle with the crippling ALS disease, but other prominent personalities have also brought emphasis to the little-known affliction.
Physicist Stephen Hawking battled ALS for five decades before succumbing earlier this year. The former star pitcher for the New York Yankees, Jim “Catfish” Hunter died of ALS. As did prominent actor David Niven.
Dwight Clark of the San Francisco 49ers is also a victim. Former North Carolina State baseball star Chris Combs has become one of the top advocates and fundraisers for ALS since his own diagnosis a few years ago.
The Joe Martin ALS Foundation
Proceeds from the event go to The Joe Martin ALS Foundation which was established by Joe Martin, his wife, Joan, and his brother, Jim, in 2007.
Joe’s ALS diagnosis was in 1994. His resolve was to live as actively as possible. Joe was a prominent banking executive, community activist, and ALS patient.
To assist families in dealing with the emotional, financial and caregiving needs of ALS, Martin’s former healthcare staff and his family have worked tirelessly to offer free home care services to people living with the affliction.
In addition to the softball challenge, the Joe Martin ALS Foundation has also established Joe’s Camp for youngsters between the ages of 8-17, the charity Joe Martin Golf Tournament which will take place September 17, 2018 at Ballantyne Country Club and the “Live Every Day Dinner” which featured author John Grisham as keynote speaker in 2017.
How you can help
Anyone interested in supporting and/or volunteering to assist in the effort to defeat ALS is welcome to join in the festivities at one or all of these events.
One thing outsiders should notice about most ALS victims is the positive attitude they all possess. They all exhibit the will to defeat their malady. ALS patients never seem to lose their sense of humor, much less their determination to overcome the disease.
As Kenny Rogers once said, “You gotta know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em” and you can be sure ALS patients are among the most adaptable people you will ever encounter.
For the record, Bob’s Sox are undefeated against Lou’s Yanks as the rivalry continues to grow. Come join us, sit in the sunshine, listen to some music, enjoy a hot dog or two and “PLAY BALL!”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people, and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)