By Laurie Sterbens
For Hometown News
Forty teams are expected to compete this weekend at the Third Annual Zachary Siegfried Wiffle Ball Tournament in Port Orange.
Whether competing for the trophy and $500 grand prize or just playing for fun, the teams all will be playing for a local organization that helps provide sports equipment and financial assistance for children to participate in sports programs.
Ball Parks 4 Him was founded by Melissa and Steven Siegfried to honor the memory of their son, Zachary, 7, who collapsed from a brain aneurysm while playing outside with his twin brother, Kyle, in December 2009. The family began helping others in Zachary's name with the decision to donate his organs, which saved the lives of four others.
"We could be consumed by grief or we could do something to help others," Ms. Siegfried said.
The idea for Ball Parks 4 Him began with hopes of developing empty land behind the family's Port Orange home into ball fields.
"My boys would sit at our kitchen table and tell me how they were going to play baseball on those fields," Ms. Siegfried said. The family was unable to reach an agreement with the city, however, so the ball field plan fell through. Ms. Siegfried says she is grateful that things worked out the way they did.
"It was actually a blessing that we did not get those fields, and I thank the city all the time for that," she said. "If we had gotten those fields, we would have died out there the first year. We were too far into our grief to realize what was going on."
The foundation took a new direction when a family member learned of a child who was in need of a prosthetic baseball glove and Ball Fields 4 Him was able to secure a donation for the glove.
"That's how we got up and running," she said. "It's just amazing how everything has fallen into place."
In its first year, the foundation was able to help five children with sports equipment and financial assistance for sports programs. By the second year, they were helping that many each month.
Melissa Huston, director of Ace Gymnastics in South Daytona, said Ball Fields 4 Him has provided assistance that allows children to participate in gymnastics who might not otherwise have been able to afford it.
"Gymnastics is a little more expensive than your average soccer team or baseball," she said. "Unfortunately, a lot of kids don't get to participate or even try it and see what it's like."
After working with the foundation for 2-1/2 years, Ace Gymnastics now contributes a raffle prize and participates in the wiffle ball tournament with teams made up of gymnasts and coaches.
"It's been a win-win for everybody," Ms. Huston said. "Our kids like to feel like they're part of something good."
Greg Bartholomew, South Daytona Parks and Recreation director, said Ball Parks 4 Him has supported the parks program with scholarships for children. He said the need for the foundation's services has become more evident in the past five years as more families struggled financially, yet still want their children to be active.
"Every child deserves the opportunity to play, and Ball Parks 4 Him goes a long way to try to make that happen," he said.
Ms. Siegfried said she has been surprised by the need she has encountered in the community.
"We expect it to continue to grow," Ms. Siegfried said. "In order for us to continue on the path of helping children, we're going to have to continue to grow."
This means the foundation is in need of donations, Ms. Siegfried said, noting that 100 percent of the money raised by the foundation is used for the children. "We take nothing out of the foundation for ourselves or anything like that. It's all for the kids."
The wiffle ball tournament is the foundation's major annual fundraiser. Six-person teams can sign up to play for fun or compete for the grand prize and trophy. In addition, raffles are held throughout the day on Saturday with more than 100 raffle items, ranging from Disney park-hopper tickets, summer camps, surf lessons and restaurant gift certificates. NASCAR fans will have a chance to win a 10th Celebration NASCAR Day hat signed by Aric Almirola, Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch; autographed sheet metal from the No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 2012 car; a No. 5 Kasey Kahne crew shirt; or a No. 6 Stadium Super Truck driver Justin Lofton graphics kit. Ticket holders do not have to be present to win a raffle.
The event includes food, drinks and a visit from Daytona Cubs mascot Cubby. In addition, the Red Cross Big Red Bus will be collecting blood donations and swabbing for bone marrow during the event.
The tournament will start at 8 a.m. Saturday at Port Orange Church of the Nazarene, 840 Taylor Road, and will continue until about 5 p.m. Games will continue at 1 p.m. Sunday. For information, call Missy Siegfried at (386) 852-6856 or visit BallParks4him.org.