The Jack Gardner Memorial Annual Softball Tournament celebrated 30 years on Saturday, July 9, 2022!
What does a day for Jack’s Kids look like? 45 softball teams, 9 parks, 19 fields, 86 softball games, 186 balls, over 1,000 photos, 99 raffle baskets, food from over 40 establishments, 15 sponsors, 2,000 50/50 tickets, over 50 volunteers, a year of planning with too many hours to count, and over a thousand people in attendance…roaring, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS! That describes a special day for the 51 children, we call Jack’s Kids.
The weekend brought out the emotions like it does every year. Starting off on Friday night, a time to reflect on our angels and remind everyone that they will never be forgotten. It is a time to honor their legacies and everything they fought for. There were many tears but, in the end, another beautiful tribute to start the weekend.
First pitches throughout Somerset County began at 8:00 AM by 14 Jack’s Kids or a family member of an angel. With a toss of the 30-year challenge coin, the two opposing teams call heads or tails, and the games began! With a NEW one pitch rule, the games went fast, and the goal of the day was met. All the teams were back at the Somerville Lodge in time for the opening ceremony!
Back at the lodge is where the true magic of the day happens. Emotions overflow as old friends and families reunite with smiles, laughter, hugs and tears. We had 19 Jack’s Kids families join us and a record number of them shared their stories and accomplishments. Moms, dads, and even some of the kids themselves gave updates and thanks to all their supporters. Seeing where the money that we raise, goes and how it helps these children is what this day is all about. We were able to hear from Ben, who is working so hard with his therapist to read and write. We witnessed for the first time ever, Jessica walking, something she was not able to do before intensive therapy! We welcomed new families, such as Aisling and Dylan. Older Jack’s Kids families joined us for the first time in years. And some families we are used to seeing were greatly missed.
We honored those that we lost this past year, including two legends that made Jack’s Kids what it is today. Bill Saller and George Anderson both have passed and will always be remembered for their dedication and generosity. We will forever remember the Jack’s Kids Angels and read their names out loud every year.
Awards and acknowledgements that were presented in great honor was the Robinson Award, which was given to Kathy Frauenheim and Tim Rice “MC” was honored with the Pierce Frauenheim Chairman Award. Caitlin Fies, a.k.a Rice, blessed us with her annual update and her new baby girl as she surprised Jim Daley with the 2022 Caitlin Fies (Rice) Guardian Angel Award. The NEW Tyler Cup was revealed to the Tyler Melville family and will forever be kept safely by the Tyler Cup winners. Let the 2022 Tyler Cup winning team be documented as Phoenix Tube! Congratulations to all the winners this year.
To all the teams that came out, raised money, played hard and came back to the lodge…. thank you! We had several new teams this year and we truly hope you are part of our future and were touched as much as we have been the past 30 years. Without players, there would not be teams, without the teams AND umpires there would not be games, without games there would not be a softball tournament fundraiser. The same goes for the volunteers. You made this day and all the weeks leading up to the big day possible.
Jack’s Kids netted over $63,000 this year which will assist the kids throughout the year to afford their medical needs, such as out of state intensive therapy, medical equipment, and medical bills that insurance denied, and so much more. Organizations, such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles # 2137 and Meyer & Depew coming in with the Home Run sponsorships, and many Triple, Double, and Single sponsors coming up right behind them, permitted us to afford this day with ease.
We could not successfully help our kids and their families without the support from all sponsors, players, umpires, volunteers, and supporters, and we hope to have you all back on July 8, 2023, for our 31st year!
The Jack’s Kids Committee
It’s All About the Kids!
Emily and Amy Kavanaugh share this day almost every year with us, but this year they were not able to make it. Amy asked us to share Emily’s progress and express their thanks.
“Very sorry we can’t be there with you all today. As it happens, we will be driving back from Michigan, where Emily just completed four weeks of intensive therapies at Euro-Therapies (formerly known as Euro-Peds). Emily has had a bit of a rough patch, health-wise, in the past few months, with two trips to the ER and one hospitalization. Then, after routine dental work with sedation, Emily suffered significant loss of balance. This kid, who walked 100 miles last year in the Get to Sesame Street Challenge, and is half-way through the 100 mile Challenge for 2022, was unable to walk at all, for a while. While her balance issues continued, Emily responded to this change like she usually does – she kept pushing forward, and figured out how to walk despite the balance issues, albeit much more slowly and with a wider stance. Thankfully, our annual trip to Michigan for intensive physical therapy was coming up. The folks at Euro-Therapies are the ones who brought Emily from crawling to independent walking, so I knew if anyone could help with whatever had gone wrong with Emily’s balance, they could. We were not disappointed, as they zeroed right in and came up with creative ways of helping restore Emily’s balance and confidence in walking. Emily worked hard in PT sessions, four hours a day for four weeks, and has made up much of the ground she had lost, in terms of balance and walking. You folks have helped us get her this life-changing therapy annually for a good while now, and it has made all the difference in the world for us. You own a piece of every one of Emily’s successes. The love, support, and encouragement of the Jack’s Kids family is truly the wind beneath our wings. Thank you so much.”~Amy Kavanaugh