CENTRAL SQUARE - Hits for Hope will be stepping up to bat for veterans in and around Oswego County during its sixth annual softball and dinner fundraiser next month.
The area non-profit organization will host a trio of softball games on Sept. 21 pitting local adult teams against volunteer fire departments, and the games will be followed by a pork dinner. All proceeds are set to be donated to the Clear Path for Veterans and Feed Our Vets charitable entities.
Hits for Hope was founded in 2013 by a group of five volunteers affiliated with the Central Square American Legion softball team that wanted to raise money to aid a teammate in need, and then became inspired to continue with an annual event aimed at helping the larger surrounding community.
The group gained non-profit status last year and its annual softball fundraiser, which is played to benefit a different community-driven cause each year, has expanded from two teams initially to six for the upcoming event.
“I think other fire departments and other softball teams see what we’re doing, and they want to be a part of something good,” said Amanda Potter, the co-vice president of Hits for Hope and a founding member.
“To see people that want to come and support, and they call and offer to donate items, it’s just good to see that there a lot of really good people out there,” she added. “Doing something like this, you can see it.”
David Potter — the Central Square American Legion women’s softball coach and a member of the Constantia Volunteer Fire Department — has served as president of Hits for Hope since its inception.
His daughter, Amanda, has filled the role of vice president along with teammate Amy Ehman, while Katie Coe volunteers as secretary and Patty Mills as treasurer. The group is assisted by two additional volunteer committee members, John Metzger and Daniel Rookie.
The festivities are set to begin with opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. at Gerald P. Van Lieu Town Park in Central Square. Three games will follow — West Monroe Volunteer Fire Department against the Parish Legion women’s team, Central Square VFD will face a team representing Clear Path for Veterans, and the Constantia VFD will renew its long-standing, good-natured rivalry with the Central Square American Legion women’s team.
The softball games will be followed by a pork dinner from 5-9 p.m. at the Central Square American Legion, which will feature food, drinks, live entertainment, a 50/50 drawing and other raffles. Tickets for the dinner are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, and attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Feed Our Vets organization.
For every dinner ticket sold, $1 will be donated to Feed Our Vets and the rest of the proceeds will go to Clear Path. Several members of Hits for Hope visited the Clear Path facilities recently and said they were impressed by the organization of mostly volunteers that provides a variety of service to support veterans and their families.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Potter said. “They have beautiful facilities and the good work that they do, there was no doubt in our mind when we walked in there that we were raising money for the right cause this year.”
Ehman added: “What an amazing place Clear Path is. The moment you get there you just feel a peace. We’re so proud to be working with them and what they do is just amazing. We spent most of the time speechless.”
Last year, Hits for Hope raised thousands of dollars to help the family of a four year-old boy in Mexico, Leiland White, that had been diagnosed with leukemia. The organization granted more than $10,000 to Golisano Children’s Hospital during a previous year, and has donated to a variety of causes during the past six years.
The group also performs random acts of kindness throughout the year such as stacking firewood and helping with similar household tasks for area residents that need assistance.
“That’s what we’re here for, everybody that’s in need, as much as we can help them,” David Potter said. “It’s just been enjoyable to do this. Last year (after the softball fundraiser) when we handed that family the money, we all broke down and cried, and it was just unbelievable.”
In addition to raising money for worthwhile causes around the community, the Hits for Hope softball fundraiser has provided an entertaining rivalry to follow between the original teams involved — the Central Square American Legion women’s team against the Constantia Volunteer Fire Dept.
The Constantia VFD claimed its first victory in the series last year and is eager to repeat, according to Metzger, who has served the Constantia VFD for 55 years and joined Hits for Hope as a volunteer committee member.
“The girls team has embarrassed the fire department for several years, now last year we were able to beat them at their game, and we were pretty excited about that,” Metzger said. “They went out and bought a good-sized trophy and presented it to us, and they’ve made some pretty bold statements that they’re going to get it back this year, so I think the challenge is out there and we’re going to have to work hard to beat them. They’re a very good team.”
David Potter said of the battle for bragging rights: “(The fire department) worries about us every year. They come to me and say: ‘How many girls do you have this year? Do you have anybody good?’ And I’ll say no, nothing great, and then we always surprise them.”
For more information on dinner tickets and ways to donate, contact Amanda Potter (315-447-2284 or email@example.com).