ESSEX, Vt. — An extra venue and a growing number of participants allowed the Travis Roy Foundation Vermont WIFFLE Ball Tournament to continue its success as the 13th annual tournament concluded Sunday in Essex, Vermont. Expansion from 24 to 28 teams and the addition of another spectacular replica field, the backyard WIFFLE ball tourney took in $470,778 (as of 5 p.m. on 8/17/14) to benefit the foundation that benefits and creates awareness for people with spinal cord injuries.
This year’s fundraising effort, still a staggering amount, was slightly shy of last year’s record-setting half-million dollar amount as the 13-year total climbs toward the $3 million mark. This year’s tourney raised the total over the 13 years to just over $2,910,000.
The theme of the 2014 tournament was ‘Fields of Dreams’, to recognize both the recent progress made in research regarding spinal cord injuries and the third field built at Pat and Beth O’Connor’s home in Essex. Little Field of Dreams, a replica of the Dyersville, Iowa cornfield ballpark in the 1988 movie, ‘Field of Dreams’, joined Little Fenway and Little Wrigley with its inaugural action this weekend.
“I really would like to thank our participants, volunteers, donors and especially our community for yet another tremendous weekend of fun,” said Pat O’Connor. “We are so proud to be alongside Travis and his cause.”
“There is so much generosity and love at this tournament where we really get to see the best of humanity,” said Travis Roy, the former Boston University men’s hockey player whose inspiration and leadership guides the foundation in his name, along with this tournament.
“Thirteen years is an awful long time for any event of this magnitude and its fantastic spirit amazes me year after year,” added Roy. “I want to thank everyone who had a part in helping keep the dream alive that we will have more breakthroughs in our research. I truly believe the next decade will be important in getting there, and I am extremely grateful for events like this weekend.”
Drizzling weather may have dampened the three fields and surrounding grounds yet did not hamper the schedule, attendance or another competitive tournament on the field. On a sunny Sunday, the Staten Island Yankees, a team that has competed in all 13 tourneys, won its second-ever team title. Led by tourney Most Valuable Player John ‘Skip’ O’Hara, Staten Island held off the Braintree, Mass.-based Jackhammers, 6-4, in the title game at Little Fenway.
O’Hara’s home run power was evident throughout the tourney and his two-run first inning bomb jumpstarted Staten Island in the title game. Another two-run shot by teammate Joey Rigatti in Staten Island’s last at bat snapped a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the sixth for the difference against the Jackhammers, who in 2012 had knocked off Staten Island for the championship.
Off the field the Boston Beef collected its eighth-straight Fan Club Award for the team with the largest fundraising effort, the largest in tournament history. The other major award-winners were JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger who picked up the Kim Trahan Fundraising Leadership Award for creativity, leadership and innovation for leading a company-wide fundraising effort over the last several years; Longtime participant Rob Young of Essex Junction, the winner of the Tommy Long Sportsmanship Award; and Belinda Davison of Essex, who heads up the tournament’s corporate sponsorship initiative, was inducted into the Little Fenway Hall of Fame.
The tournament began Friday with the opening ceremonies and the first game played at Little Field of Dreams, site of the annual Celebrity-Sponsor game.
The Travis Roy Foundation is very thankful for sponsors JetBlue, Pratt & Whitney, Positive Tracks, Poland Springs, Safelite Fulfillment, Merrill Lynch, Dunkin Donuts, Best Western, Peoples United Bank, Covidien, and Berkshire Bank.
Tournament videos and replays courtesy of Pack Network.