To many boys in the Northeast, Wiffle ball is considered not just a game, but a symbol of their childhood. For a group of young men in Somerton on a Friday afternoon in August, however, it was much more than that.
Brian Miracle, along with 15 of his boyhood friends from the neighborhood, gathered about 9 o’clock in the morning at his house to draft teams for their 4th annual “Wiffleball Extravaganza” — a daylong tournament held in his backyard. This year, for the first time, the tournament raised money for charity.
“We decided to do it on the first Friday in August; it gave everyone time to take off from work and make sure we could all do it. It’s a ‘Friday for the boys,’” the 20-year-old Miracle said, sporting a worn, off-white Minnesota Twins T-shirt and a red and white baseball cap.
The teams were divided up by choosing random bingo balls. Team names were made up; some on the spot, while others were carried over from years past, and written on a blue poster board that hung on the wall of Miracle’s back deck. The bracket was set, and the games began.
Miracle’s above ground pool served as the seating area for scorebook keeper/umpire Dylan Singleton, who sat diligently in his chair on the pool deck watching each game’s every move, recording each strikeout, hit and out. Orange cones served as the bases, and home plate stood in front of a small shed. The bottom half of the shed’s door served as the “strike zone.”
The branches of the trees blocked much of the sun’s rays; however, in game after game, the young men walked off the field wiping beads of sweat off their foreheads.
What made this year’s tournament special was that they were playing for a greater cause than just a group of young men gathering to engage in one of America’s pastimes.
About a month before the tournament, Miracle’s mother, Pat, suggested doing something different and playing to raise money for a charitable cause.
“She asked us if we ever considered doing this for charity,” Brian Miracle said. ldquo;We were all really enthusiastic about it.”
The group decided to raise funds for a local charity called Helen’s Hope, which was named after Helen Ebner, aunt of Brian Miracle’s childhood friend, Nick Ricci. Ebner’s family established the nonprofit organization in Helen’s name after she lost her battle with breast cancer in 2007.
“She was the ‘fun aunt’,” Ricci said, speaking of his Aunt Helen. “She was into rock and roll and all that stuff.
“The charity helps people who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of their cancer treatments,” he said.
“Mrs. Miracle really went above and beyond,” Ricci said of her enthusiasm about making the tournament mean something more than just boys playing Wiffle ball in her backyard.
“I get just as excited as they do,” said Pat Miracle, who was busy picking up and preparing food both bought and donated for the hungry players throughout much of the day.
“They take it very seriously,” she said about the boys’ intense love of the game, “I asked Brian, ‘My gosh, do you ever stress this much over a test?’ ”
Anticipation for this day looms for months. The gang recalled back in March marking “200 days” til the tournament with excitement and eagerness.
Participants are asked to pay a fee to pay for game day supplies such as food, equipment, trophies and T-shirts. To raise additional funds to donate to Helen’s Hope, letters were sent out to local businesses, as well as family and friends, asking for their support for the cause.
To date, the tournament raised more than $600 for Helen’s Hope. Brian Miracle expects this to be the just the start of an event that will raise even more money in the future.
“We started fundraising a little too late,” he said, “but if we do a little more planning I think we can definitely raise more.” ••
To make a donation to Helen’s Hope, visit www.helenshope.org.