Outside of my family & close friends, I often get asked about my involvement with Fall River National Little League at Dumont Field. With the 6th Annual “Batting for a Cause” Tournament coming up this weekend and next, I figured this might be a good time to talk about why this league is important to me.
I have been an active volunteer for 6 seasons and a sponsor for the past 5 seasons. Most people think that Jayden plays baseball there and that is how I got involved. I do not volunteer because I have a child who plays Little League Baseball. I do not volunteer because I have a relative who plays, volunteers or serves on the Board of Directors. I volunteer because 6 years ago, my parents sponsored a team for the first time.
At the time of sponsorship, Jayden was 3 years old and had received his ASD diagnosis a year prior. I simply asked my mother to ask the Board of Directors if it would be possible for the team she was sponsoring to wear an Autism Ribbon patch on their jerseys, that I would provide, to raise awareness and acceptance. Instead, Fall River National Little League took a simple request and ran with it! They purchased Autism Awareness flags to fly and hang on their fence! They placed stickers on the back of players batting helmets! FRNLL League decided to host their first tournament in 2010…at that point we didn’t realize that it would become an annual tournament! This tournament is called “Batting for a Cause.” 100% of the proceeds from this tournament benefit Community Autism Resources. All team registration fees, t-shirt and concession stand sales are donated! To date, this tournament has helped me raise over $34,000.00 but most importantly, they have sent a message to the youth of our city and the surrounding cities/towns…Different is not less!
Don’t get me wrong, it is a TON of work and there are few Volunteers to compensate for the amount of work that needs to be done, and it takes a ton of Volunteers to make this tournament happen BUT, the feeling you get when you are seeing everything fall into place, makes all the work, worth it…in ways I’m not really sure how to explain! I am grateful not only to the League for the endless hours and effort they put into this, but also, I am grateful to my family and friends. They step up in a HUGE way to volunteer in many different ways for this tournament. I don’t think they will ever understand how thankful I am for all that they do, always!
They wanted to do more to help children and families living with the daily challenges of ASD. They didn’t have to “adopt” a cause near and dear to my heart as their own, but they did! 6 seasons later, they are preparing yet another tournament to help local families like mine! They allow me to set up an Autism Awareness table to sell merchandise and collect donations and my parents set up a coffee tent sponsored by their business “The Coffee Pot,” and you guessed it, my parents donate 100% of the proceeds made from their tent as well! FRNLL has been adamant about continuing to grow this tournament and make it bigger and better each season. So much so, that they met with the city of Fall River with a proposed plan to build a third field! With a third field, they could invite more teams to participate in the tournament!
This year will be the biggest tournament they have held to date! In the past, this has been a 3 day tournament…typically Saturday & Sunday of one weekend and Saturday of the next weekend. This year, with the 3rd field, they are hosting 2 tournaments; An A Division Tournament & a B Division Tournament! The tournament dates are July 24th-26th & July 31st-August 2nd! Teams are coming from all over MA & RI to participate in this tournament! Jayden will be lining up with 11 of his friends to throw first pitches, to kick off each tournament!
I’m sure most people realize that Coaches and Board Members of Youth Sports Leagues are Volunteers and are not compensated for their time. With Little League Baseball, some of the Umpires coming from other leagues, are sometimes paid umpires. For this tournament, those Umpires donate 100% of their time so the money they would be compensated is donated!
Fall River National Little League has given my family a place that feels like a home. A place where everyone knows Jayden and doesn’t pass judgment based on his differences. Instead, they embrace him and accept him for who he is. They have honored Jayden in so many ways over the past several years. They allow him to throw first pitches to kick off Opening Day & the Tournament. He’s received signed game balls, from the players & coaches of the team we sponsor after winning Championship games. A Coach had Jayden’s name printed on the back of his Coaches shirt. They’ve honored him as a “Lifetime Member” of the league and presented him with an All Star Jersey with his name on it and a hat. An Umpire who was retiring after one of the tournaments gave Jayden his jersey. Umpires also gave Jayden a hat and a beautiful photo frame with pictures they took with Jayden, the previous year. Players from other teams have given Jayden small gifts. This league has invited surrounding cities and towns to join them and in their efforts to raise funds, take action and to help spread awareness…the list goes on!
FRNLL has supported our family on and off the field! Many of them walk with our team, J.J.’s Hope & Friends, on walk day. They have also been Official Sponsors of our Hearts & Hands Walk for Autism as well as sponsored a number of Activities we have at this event!
There are no words to express my gratitude for these amazing people and this wonderful league, past & present! FRNLL may be one of the smallest leagues in my community but there is no doubt, that their hearts our HUGE! They are helping us make a difference in our small corner of the world and I am proud to be a part of that!