Over the past seven years, the Apponaug Girls Softball League has been giving back to their own, raising more than $45,000 for families in need through their Fall Charity Classic.
The League hosts their annual charity tournament during the last weekend in October.
“It wraps up our outdoor season for the year,” said Bob Chevien, the league’s president.
But the tournament also serves as a fundraiser for a selected family with a connection to the league that may be going through a tough time. For example, one year the proceeds went to the family of one of Chevien’s players whose father had passed away suddenly in a tragic accident; another year it went to a woman in the community battling cancer.
Every bit of money raised through the tournament, including entry fees, profits from the snack bar and profits from T-shirt sales goes to the selected family, usually a total of $5,000 each year.
The umpires even volunteer their time to work the tournament. “They make it possible,” said Julie Hopgood, the League’s vice president. “They probably save us $3,000.”
The tournament has been a charity for families for the past seven years. Each year, the Board of Directors of the 501c3 non-profit league tries to find a family with an Apponaug League connection. “We try not to give it to a big organization,” explained Chevien, adding that the goal is to keep the tournament personal and geared toward the hometown. The only exceptions were the first year when the funds went to breast cancer research and this past year.
“We only didn’t this year because, fortunately, we didn’t have any,” said Hopgood.
Instead, the League was able to find two Warwick families going through a hard time.
The first benefiting family was a grandmother and her three young grandchildren. The three children, who are all under 8 years old, had recently lost their mother and baby sibling in a car accident and had to move in with their grandmother. Hopgood heard that the grandmother used the money to purchase bunk beds so her grandchildren could finally have their own beds and get a good night’s sleep.
“Once I heard that story, I thought this was wonderful,” said Hopgood.
The second $5,000 went to Nicholas Dutchover, the young son of a Warwick National Little League coach who passed away earlier this year.
This was the first time the league was able to support two families, giving each $5,000, because the tournament attracted double the number of teams. Thirty-three teams participated in October’s tournament, raising just over $10,000.
“There was no reason we couldn’t support two families,” said Hopgood.
Hopgood explained that the league begins to look for the family they will support for the charity tournament early in the year; sometime the family will be selected as early as April and other times it will be later.
“These two families, we had three weeks before the tournament,” said Hopgood.
Usually, finding a family to support is not too difficult.
“With 400 or 500 people involved in the organization, you’re bound to hear something,” said Hopgood.
According to Hopgood, the benefiting families are surprised and in awe by the amount of money they receive.
“They might not have known until they got the money,” said Hopgood about this year’s families.
Chevien attributes the growth of the tournament to increased exposure.
“In the past years, it was word of mouth [advertising],” explained Chevien. “This year it was on ASA’s [Amateur Softball Association of America] website.”
Chevien also believes the charity tournament attracts a large number of teams because it is one of the last opportunities to play before the weather gets too cold, and it is less expensive compared to most tournaments. To compete, the league charges an entry fee of $10 per player; that comes out to about $300 a team compared to other tournaments that are closer to $500 a team.
The cost is able to stay low because a lot of the items needed for the tournament are donated, including T-shirts from Elmwood Sports, limestone for the field from Conklin Limestone and the umpires donate their time. The tournament is also hosted at Winslow Park, the fields used by the League at no cost.
Chevien said the charity tournament also has a more positive, less competitive feel than other tournaments.
“People aren’t grumpy like they can be during tournament season,” said Chevien with a laugh.
With plans to move to a new facility after T.F. Green Airport takes over Winslow Park, Hopgood and Chevien say the charity tournament as well as the league will continue.
“This is something we’ll always do,” said Hopgood.
Hopgood and Chevien were thankful to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) for their openness and willingness to work with the League as plans move forward for a new field near Lake Shore Drive.
“They’ve included us in meetings. They’re including us in plans,” said Hopgood. “They want to replace what we have.”
Hopgood said in addition to charitable efforts, the League also brings close to $1 million into the city through their four summer tournaments, a number she calculated along with the city’s tourism director, Karen Jedson.
The Apponaug Girls Softball League will start their 34th season this coming April, including a six-week recreation spring season, a competitive travel season in the summer and another six-week recreational Fall Ball season starting in September. The League has roughly 300 players over the course of the three seasons with girls from all over the state participating.
For more information about the League or to learn about online and in-person registration for the spring season, visit their new website, www.agsoftball.com. Sign-ups for the spring season begin in January.