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Softball tourney raises funds for kids to play ball
Richmond Hill Fire Department Firefighter Mitchell Holmes races city building inspector John Buckner to the bag during Saturday’s softball tournament at the South Bryan Rec Department. Photo by Shawn Morgan.

It may not have been the World Series, but locals gave it their all at the ball fields Saturday morning for something even better.

Four local government agencies got together March 23 for a softball tournament to raise money for local youth who would not have been able to afford to participate in sports at the recreation department. Once everything is added up, rec sports can easily cost $150 to $200, estimated city employee Amanda Styer.

“Some families, especially with multiple children, that’s just too much,” Styer said. “You never want a child who wants to play rec sports not be able to because of money and I’m worried, especially families with four or five kids, that’s happening.”

She quickly added, “I don’t feel it will ever happen again because it’s been astronomical. The money that’s come in for this event has been far more than we expected.” This was the first event of its kind for the city and started with building inspector John Buckner.

“This was his idea from the beginning,” Styer said. “He has done a lot of footwork to get it where it is.”

Buckner was on the field most of the day. But he and RHPD Sgt. Tim Saia, better known as Doc, were the last to leave the fields after the tournament. “It’s far exceeded anything that I had originally thought of,” Buckner after the event. “ I thought of just some guys getting out, playing some ball, raising a little bit of money to help out.”

Some 70-plus business and individual sponsorships later, Buckner is certain they will be able to help a lot of children.

Of the highlights, he said the big talk of the town was to see police and fire go toe-to-toe.

“EOM pretty much stomped everybody,” Buckner said of the city’s public works department and, now, tournament champions.

They did not think too much of having had worked all week and giving up the first Saturday of spring for something their aren’t being paid to do.

“This was a fun event,” Saia said. “We were in it for a worthy cause so we were looking forward to that.”

Much like true public servants, they deferred any pats on the back. “I think the people that really deserve the accolades were the ones that weren’t playing. We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers,” Saia said, mentioning the food and VFW table. The whole community came together, according to Styer, who mentioned Banana Graphics made all the banners and donated the team T-shirts. “It was a lot of work on their plate, in addition to all their other work. They pulled it off well,” Styer said.

Exclusive Engravings donated the winner’s trophy, which will pass on from winner to winner for the annual event.

“So many people came in and just gave a $500 check and said ‘I don’t need a banner. I just wanted to give this,’ Styer said. “And not even businesses, just individual residents.”

The tournament included food, cornhole and other games, and bounce houses, donated by CJ’s Inflatables.

Mayor Russ Carpenter took the microphone for an official welcome. Pastor Steve Lane of New Beginnings Community Church opened in prayer. RHFD Christian Alexander sang the National Anthem and daughter of newly elected city councilwoman Kristi Cox threw the first pitch.

For the scholarships, officials plan to come up with an application process and a committee to review the submissions.

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