While the popular summertime tradition wasn’t held in Essex this year, or in its traditional format, the fundraiser was still tremendously successful.
The 19th annual Travis Roy Foundation (TRF) WIFFLE Ball Tournament couldn’t be facilitated live from the Little Fenway, Little Wrigley, and Little Field of Dreams diamonds that sit off of Sawmill Road, but organizers used a creative approach to help it still raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Instead of heading to Essex to compete head-to-head, participants took videos of themselves using the infamous plastic sporting gear to be part of the TRF WIFFLE Ball Challenge. Those were shared on social media and included the tag #BatterUpTRF. As of Aug. 10, close to 300 people had joined in -- nearly as many that are involved during the usual event -- and had raised $325,309.
“What a fun week we had,” said Roy in his Aug. 9 remarks as the weekend wrapped up with the annual money count announcement. “I’m feeling a lump in our throat hearing all the familiar voices online all week since this tournament captures all your senses. It’s been sad not seeing everyone this year, but I can’t thank everyone for making the most of it.”
Along with Sunday’s money count was a broadcasted conversation with former Sports Illustrated senior writer E.M. Swift, the co-author of Roy’s best-selling book “Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage and Triumph” which was the inspiration for Little Fenway founder Pat O’Connor in starting the tournament in 2002.
In addition to the conversation and other virtual presentations, this year’s event included replays of the tournament’s last 10 title games, an online silent auction, and a simulated tournament on the video game MLB: The Show 2020.
Roy, who resides in nearby Malletts Bay each summer, is a former Boston University men’s ice hockey player who was paralyzed from the neck down just 11 seconds into his first shift as a Terrier. He has since seen the TRF raise over $6.4 million after this year’s version to benefit and create awareness for people with spinal cord injuries.
“The payoff for all the hard work all year fundraising and getting teams together is coming to Vermont to celebrate the weekend and feel the magic,” added Roy. “We’re missing you greatly, but the fact is we raised over $300 thousand in the middle of a pandemic. [We] now have this money to continue our research, issue our grants, and most importantly help individuals and families in need. What you guys have done to rally your teams and raise that kind of money to help us is exciting and is a huge relief. Thank you very much to all involved.”
Unlike the past 18 years where the tournament was focused on a few days, the 2020 installment will allow people to take a swing and keep participating, or donating, through the end of August.
Several annual awards were also presented last Sunday to recognize extra efforts. Among those was the Most Valuable Player Award which went to Milton’s Mike ‘Mojo’ Moshovetis of the GoodFellas team for his exceptional fundraising.
The 2021 TRF WIFFLE Ball Tournament is expected to be back in Essex and has been scheduled for Aug. 13-15.