After playing many years of youth-league baseball, and then having my kids be a part of local traveling teams, I’ve been part of a load of fundraisers in my day.
Candy sales? Check.
Car washes? Check.
Spaghetti dinners to go? Check.
But a May 16 event proved not only the creativity of team leaders, it also showed an incredible amount of moxie to be able to stage a fundraiser of the highest quality.
The Mandeville Jazz softball program hosted a “Celebrity Softball Game & Family Fest” that day near the lakeshore at Fontainebleau State Park. The weather was perfect at 70 degrees with clear skies, a light breeze, and the sun draped along the horizon.
But as I mentioned a moment ago, it wasn’t only Mother Nature who did her job on May 16. The Jazz put on a show, as well.
The highlight was a softball game pitting team players against Mandeville area officials. The “Celebrity Team,” as it was called, included Mandeville Mayor Donald Villere, St. Tammany Parish District 4 Fire Chief Merrick Tassin and Mandeville Police Chief Rick Richard, as well of city council members, civic organization officials, school board members and business leaders.
It stood to figure that the Jazz players would “school” their elders, as they are younger, compete regularly, and are in better physical condition. But the Celebrity Team brought its “A” game and played a spirited contest that resulted in a 2-2 tie.
The “FUNraiser,” as it was billed, wasn’t only about the game, however. The team provided numerous carnival games and inflatable attractions for the younger set.
Good food, cold drinks and even live musical entertainment were available. Musicians taking the stage May 16 included Mario Alvarez, Julia Ernst, Jonathan Koeppel, and Foxy Lady & the Line Benders. NOLAfied played after the benefit softball game.
It wasn’t only the Jazz softball program that benefited from the event. The softball teams from Archbishop Hannan, Lakeshore and Mandeville high schools whipped up some culinary treats, with proceeds boosting their team coffers.
There wasn’t anyone that I spoke with who wasn’t having a grand time on that pleasant Friday evening.
“We had a whole lot of fun,” said Mandeville City Councilman Rick Danielson. “It was just a great way to gather on a Friday night. The game was wonderful and everything was so well-attended. There were a lot of family members there from the Jazz, and there was a lot of family there with the so-called ‘celebrity team,’ as well.”
Danielson said right away, it was evident that the event was well- planned.
“I thought they just did a wonderful job of putting this on,” he said. “They went all out with the food, the music, the games. I was very excited to be a part of it, and really am looking forward to it being an annual event.
Sherry Jacob, the Mandeville Jazz team manager, said plans are in the works to have a similar event next year.
“The idea was to involve the girls with a fundraiser, without having them go door to door selling candy, or something like that,” Jacob said. “Plus, this is a way to bring the community together, to let them know about our program, and to have fun.”
The Mandeville Jazz softball program is composed of 31 girls from the Mandeville/Madisonville/Covington area. The team has players in developmental programs, as well as some that travel to tournaments. However, a key element of the Jazz program is that they compete only in tournaments within a two-hour drive, thus making the time and financial constraints on parents easier to manage.
For information on the Jazz, go online to www.mandevillejazz.com or call Jacob at (985) 951-0268.
Andrew Canulette covers recreation and leisure activities for the St. Tammany Advocate. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.