by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
The 2014 Osseo Maple Grove Softball Extravaganza will celebrate the sport and the community, honor the senior players from both high schools and raise awareness to fight breast cancer.
This year’s event will take place Friday, May 9, at Maple Grove Junior High. The freshman and sophomore games kick it off at 5 p.m., followed by the junior varsity game at 6:30 p.m. and the varsity game at 7:30 p.m. A ceremony honoring the seniors will take place at 7 p.m. The seniors are Krista Grant, Touria Techam and Ashley Sis from Osseo and Josie Roehl, Jordan Mauch, Sarah Southorn, Allison Deisting and Sydney Sanford from Maple Grove.
“It is important for our young players to be able to watch top flight programs compete and show that they can play and have fun,” said OMGAA fastpitch director Mark Pallansch, who has a daughter on the high school sophomore team. “Our numbers continue to increase in the girls fastpitch arena and I believe that having an event like this really helps our program. Having a strong community program allows the high school coaches to have the numbers they need to continue to fill competitive teams.”
The extravaganza started eight years ago when Osseo coach Eric Ruska and Maple Grove coach Jim Koltes realized the need to get OMGAA youth softball players involved and to show them how exciting high school softball could be to their future. It also allows the high school teams to play under the lights and more parents and community could come to the later evening event and see various levels of teams play.
“We mentioned the importance of the community,” said event co-chair Stephanie Smith. “These high school girls have all played together whether through community or club ball, gone to elementary and junior high together, but then they split and go to their prospective high schools and become friendly adversaries.”
This year’s extravaganza will once again try to increase awareness of those battling breast cancer.
“Our mission last year became more then just a softball game but also about bringing the community together to increase the awareness of those battling breast cancer,” Smith said. “We had our first ‘pink out’ to honor those close to us in the Maple Grove and Osseo family. Maple Grove’s assistant varsity coach Pam Hennen was diagnosed in 2013 and a Maple Grove parent and an Osseo parent have dealt with this personally as well.”
Last year the event focused on coaches vs. cancer to donate any “pink out” proceeds. This year, organizers have decided to raise funds for the Pay It Forward Fund, founded by Osseo parent Joanne Simon and Michelle Morey, both breast cancer survivors.
“The Pay it Forward Fund helps breast and women’s cancer patients pay essential living expenses while they go through treatment so they can focus on what’s really important — getting healthy,” said Morey. “Pay it Forward works with seven local hospitals and currently pays $20,000 per month in patients assistance.”
“Cancer can be expensive in terms of the cost of treatment and lost wages due to missed days at work,” said Hennen. “The stress of worrying about paying bills only compounds the challenges of treatment.”
Local businesses such as Chick-Fil-A (Maple Grove), Extra Innings (Brooklyn park) and Sota Shoppe (Osseo) have given donations to help the event raise funds for Pay It Forward.
Entry to the extravaganza is free but donations are welcomed for Pay It Forward. There will be a small auction, games and pink out t-shirts, bracelets and tattoos for sale. Leafy and the Oriole will be there for pictures along with the Chick-fil-A cow. OMGAA girls get free food if they wear their jerseys and organizers encourage all attendees to wear pink.
“We are very excited about the event,” Smith said. “So bring your money, bring your spirit and bring your love for softball.”
Those with questions about the extravaganza, contact Stephanie Smith at [email protected]
For more information on the Pay It Forward Fund, visit www.payitforwardfund.net.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]