Local teams step up to plate in support of United WayEight teams are going to bat for the United Way on Friday. They will dust off their softball gloves and athletic shoes to raise money and awareness for the United Way of Superior-Douglas County. The roster for the first ever “Go to Bat for United Way Softball Tournament” includes high school students, beauticians, accountants and bartenders.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Eight teams are going to bat for the United Way on Friday. They will dust off their softball gloves and athletic shoes to raise money and awareness for the United Way of Superior-Douglas County. The roster for the first ever “Go to Bat for United Way Softball Tournament” includes high school students, beauticians, accountants and bartenders.
“We’re really excited to be playing,” said Jolene Sajec with the Blondies Salon and Serenity Spa team. “It’s a great community event and a good way to meet people, socialize and help out.”
The competition begins at 2 p.m. at Hayes Court Complex on Elm Avenue. The bracketed tournament will feature 45 minute games with special third inning “rules” to liven things up. The public is welcome to attend the free event and cheering is encouraged.
“The emphasis is on fun,” said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and United Way board member. He will coach a team of teens involved in the chamber’s youth leadership program. “It’s a promotion for the United Way, what we’re about, what we’re doing.”
The tournament signals the kick-off to the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. By getting youth involved, Minor hopes to raise community awareness. In addition, many of the programs funded by the United Way help youth.
Some teams have nicknames – the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse’s team is called the “Sidekicks;” the Human Development Center has the “Psyclones.” Others have matching shirts and cheering sections ready to go.
Roger Peterson, a partner with Esterbrooks and Associates, said his team is not very competitive. But they were eager to help out.
“We just want to be involved,” Peterson said. Last year, employees at the accounting firm spent hours sorting and packaging school supplies for the United Way’s Stuff the Bus Campaign. This was another way to lend a helping hand. With the United Way backing it, Peterson said, the tournament promises to be a positive experience for players as well as those watching.
“The more people, the more fun it is to cheer,” he said.
The tournament takes place in the midst of the United Way’s 2010 Stuff the Bus Campaign. New school supplies will be accepted during the game. A full list of needed supplies can be viewed online at unitedwayofsuperior.org. Drop-off sites will also be open Monday and Tuesday to collect donations. Youth at the Boys & Girls Club of Superior will sort the supplies, which will be given to students at all Douglas County schools when school begins.
Last week, the United Way unveiled their “Road Map for Change,” a focused approach to meeting community needs.
“This is not your father’s United Way,” said executive director Kathi Madsen. Three years ago, the board began identifying the greatest needs in Douglas County. They then winnowed those down to three – homelessness, teen delinquency and early childhood literacy. The United Way is taking aim at the issues, emphasizing support to agencies and programs that focus on them.
The new direction is a home run, Minor said.
“It gives people more concrete reasons to give,” he said.
All three issues are interconnected, said Janna Stevens, superintendent of the Superior school district and United Way board member. Homelessness affects the school district just as much as delinquency and childhood literacy, she said.
According to Betsy Byler with the Human Development Center, many of the area’s homeless are invisible. They couch surf or live with relatives instead of sleeping on park benches, but they’re there. Teen delinquency and addiction can lead to homelessness.
“These are things we work with all the time,” Byler said.
The key to preventing homelessness may be found much earlier.
“The magic of all our problems seems to lie in preschool, 5-year-old age,” Madsen said. If children start school with reading readiness skills – knowledge of the alphabet, how letters sound and a larger vocabulary – school becomes engaging. If youth aren’t bored they stay in school, gaining the skills for a future job and the financial literacy to pay bills and create a budget. Those skills could keep a roof over their head.
Programs such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and the Family Resource Center, which promote childhood literacy, fit into the United Way’s road map. So does the CASDA shelter and the HDC’s programs.
“The objectives they are working on are similar to ours,” Byler said. So the Psyclones are going to bat for the United Way Friday.
Volunteers are needed to help keep score and work the concession stand. For more information on the tournament, the United Way’s Road map for Change or the 2010 Stuff the Bus Campaign, call (715) 394-2733.