Aug 14, 2013
ESSEX, Vt. - Amazing plays on the field and another staggering fundraising effort highlighted the 12th annual Travis Roy Foundation Vermont WIFFLE Ball Tournament that concluded Sunday at Little Fenway and Little Wrigley in Essex, Vermont. The 24-team backyard WIFFLE ball tourney cracked the half-million dollar mark in a single year raising a record-shattering $502,150 (as of 8/11/13), to benefit the foundation that benefits and creates awareness for people with spinal cord injuries.
This year's fundraising effort surpasses the previous record of $435,000 set in 2012 to bring the 12-year total to just under $2.5 million dollars ($2,428,530) including $1.7 million over the last four years.
This year's tournament theme was "Celebrating Twelve Years of Keeping Hope Alive' in recognition of the dozen years of the event that is the foundation's largest annual fundraising event.
"I want to thank the local community that surrounds Little Fenway and Little Wrigley," said Travis Roy, the former Boston University men's hockey player whose inspiration and leadership guides the foundation in his name. "It is a very special place and these great people continue to provide such a great atmosphere that makes the tournament special year after year.
"This fantastic spirit allows us to raise a tremendous amount of money, and I'd like thank everyone who contributed at any level. This generosity allows us to maintain our theme of keeping hope alive for those affected by spinal cord injuries."
Roy also singled out the work of the many younger participants whose fundraising was encouraged by Positive Tracks and its partners, a youth-centric non-profit organization that challenges hands-on creative fundraising in athletic-related community service events. Positive Tracks this year matched contributions up to $75,000 raised by participants ages 23 and under. Funds raised by these tourney participants exceeded the matching limit by over $7,000.
The tourney was held at Pat and Beth O'Connor's quarter-sized replicas of the two iconic major league parks in their backyard in Essex, Vt. In addition to hosting the widely attended event, the O'Connor's spearhead the tournament effort.
"The money is an astounding figure yet the tournament has the feel of a big family reunion," said Pat O'Connor. "Starting with our great core of volunteers all the way to the players and all the generous donors, everyone should be very proud of what we all do."
Excellent weather allowed for larger than normal attendance throughout the tournament and the 24 teams responded with tight yet friendly competition as three runs or fewer decided fourteen of the 41 games. On Sunday the Boston Beef, a team from the original tournament in 2002, became the first to capture three tournament titles by holding off the Crusaders, 7-4, in the title game. The Beef were led by veteran pitcher Billy Doyle who struck out 12 in the title game to cap a perfect 6-0 record on the mound.
The upstart Crusaders finally finding success in their sixth tourney, swept divisional play to earn the top seed in Sunday's eight-team playoffs. Their pitcher, Dan French, earned tourney most valuable player honors. The Crusaders were bolstered in division play by an incredible game-saving catch by Konnor Fleming of Charlotte, Vt., who is a football defensive back at Macalester College in Minnesota. The play was captured on video by the Pack Network and was an instant internet sensation that was featured nationally on many major media outlets such as ESPN, CBS, NBC and CNN.
Off the field the Boston Beef collected its seventh-straight Fan Club Award for the team with the largest fundraising effort, the largest in tournament history. The other major award-winners were Chad Drew of the South Street Hard Shells who earned the Kim Trahan Fundraising Leadership Award for creativity, leadership and innovation in its fundraising effort; Asphalt captain and longtime participant Mike Behling of Rutland, Vt. won the Tommy Long Sportsmanship Award; and Judi Galdi of Essex Junction, Vt., who chairs the tournament hospitality and concessions, was inducted into the Little Fenway Hall of Fame.
The tournament began Friday with the opening ceremonies and the annual Celebrity-Sponsor game at Little Fenway. Highlighting the celebrities and sponsors on hand over the weekend were JetBlue Airways President and CEO David Barger; former UVM hoop standout Taylor Coppenrath, a professional star in Europe; Professional golfer Libby Smith who also was a basketball star at UVM; Sports Illustrated senior writer Alexander Wolff; noted baseball historian and author Glenn Stout; local media members Mike McCune of WCAX TV, Alex Abrami of the Burlington Free Press and Ken Drake of WPTZ TV; UVM and USA Hockey star Amanda Pelkey; and Catamounts men's hockey coach Kevin Sneddon.
Click here to watch a video of Championship Sunday including $500K announcement, awards and title game highlights courtesy of the Pack Network: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9VTAgddeGM
For more information on the Travis Roy Foundation, log on to www.travisroyfoundation.org.