Philadelphia Phillies star catcher Carlos Ruiz, known as “Chooch,” was watching for a different kind of strike on Sunday, when he and several fellow players took to the lanes at Northern Liberties’ North Bowl to raise money for charity.
The Phillie Phanatic even made it out to the event - the twelfth annual Get in the Game fundraiser - which raised over $160,000 for Philadelphia Futures’ Sponsor-A-Scholar initiative.
During the evening, hundreds of donors along with students and families involved in the Sponsor-A-Scholar initiative mingled with 13 Phillies players including Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Vance Worley, John Mayberry Jr. and Cliff Lee.
For the second year in a row, Chooch served as host for the Sunday, April 29, event at North Bowl, at 909 N. 2nd St. In the past, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Vicrtorino have hosted.
Though now it’s all about bowling, the event started in 2001 as a billiard tournament with former Phillies Doug Glanville, Randy Wolf and Mike Lieberthal.
“This event is important for children with needs. I’m a supporter and I wanted to be here for the cause,” Chooch said through the help of a translator. “I feel that I have an obligation to help those in need.”
Chooch and his fellow players spent the evening bowling and signing autographs for fans.
In honor of Ruiz, Philadelphia Futures – which works to support college bound children, in grades nine and above, who come from low-income families – provided a sponsorship of $7,500 to Adrian Gomez, a 16-year-old student at George Washington High.
“This has really been a nice experience. He was really nice,” said Gomez, who met Ruiz that evening.
Gomez said he works with Philadelphia Futures on a weekly basis, studying and doing homework to help prepare him for college.
Philadelphia Futures, he said, is working with him to pick a school, even though he already knows what his future might hold. Born in Equador, Gomez said he wants to be an immigration lawyer, working to help prevent immigrants from being deported unfairly.
“I want to help people. I don’t want to see them get kicked out of the country,” he said. “I want to help them out and give people the opportunities like the ones I’ve been given.”
Gomez is only one of over 180 students throughout the city involved in the Sponsor-a-Scholar program.
Joan Mazzotti, executive director of Philadelphia Futures, said the Sponsor-a-Scholar program doesn’t just help students.
“We are a strong resource for parents,” she said. “Kids come by every week for our after school program, they get matched with a mentor…and, they stay [in touch with Philadelphia Futures] all through their lives.”
The program also provides $6,000, spread out and delivered in $600 increments, in order to help cover costs associated with schooling.
That money helps with costs a student of a low-income family might never be able to cover.
“We absolutely change lives,” Mazzotti said. “And, when you do that, you not only impact the individual, you impact their family and then, you impact the community.”
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or email@example.com.