Inaugural Play It Forward Fall Classic a rousing success

Proceeds from the tournament to benefit newly formed Neil J. Levine Memorial Fund and Go 4 The Goal Foundation.

The South Jersey Storm pose with their trophies after defeating Vandals to win the Play It Forward Fall Classic in Cherry Hill on Oct. 7. Pictured from left to right top row: Eddie Hernandez, Jake Atlas, Angel Martinez, Santos Agramonte, Nick DeChristopher, Kai Hutchins, Cade Friel, Josh Janove, Alex Levine. Left to right bottom row: Carlos Cruz, Jeremy Wolf, Sasha Palma, Julian Valazquez (Photo credit: Debra Jacobs)

This past June, the South Jersey Storm baseball team based in Cherry Hill lost its head coach, Neil Levine, to cancer at only 47 years old.

In spite of the unexpected tragedy, Levine’s children, Sophie and Alex — a member of the Storm — decided to take action, and attempted to bring some joy to the community out of personal suffering.

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To honor Neil, his children, Sophie and Alex, thought it would be a great idea to set up a memorial fund.

“The Neil J. Levine Memorial Fund raises money to help children in Camden who cannot afford the proper equipment to play sports. The money will go to the Boys and Girls Club and will be used to help pay for equipment, uniforms and keeping the fields nice and groomed,” said Debra Jacobs, the fund’s general manager.

In addition, the Storm formed a partnership with South Jersey-based “Go 4 The Goal” that supports children with cancer and their families by providing financial assistance, granting personal wishes, implementing unique hospital programs, and funding innovative research. One hundred percent of all donations are intended to directly benefit local kids and families.

In that spirit, the Storm held its first-ever “Play It Forward Fall Classic” baseball tournament Oct. 6–7 at Cherry Hill Atlantic Little League to raise money for these two foundations. All money raised will be split between the two causes. Five teams were featured: the Storm, Diamond Dawgs, SJ Braves, Vandals and the Jersey State Bombers.

As an added touch for the participants to remind them of their games’ purpose, each player wore gold shoelaces on their cleats to show their support, as gold is the color for pediatric cancer.

In a touch of poetic justice, the Storm won the tournament, topping the Vandals, 5–2. Alex did not play, since he is taking a break from the sport in the wake of losing his father and coach. However, he did attend the tournament, making his presence known by serving as announcer during the games and participating in the Home Run Derby.

Counting on an outpouring of support after undertaking so much work to put on the tournament, the goal was to raise $10,000. Thanks to the generosity of Cherry Hill residents, along with the time invested by all the organizers, players and coaches, they were able to go beyond that goal, taking in $10,225 during the weekend.

“Thank you so much for your help! We know that seeing the smiles on the children’s faces would make Neil a happy man. May Neil forever remain in our hearts,” said fund co-founders Sophie and Alex Levine following the event.

Jacobs stated they expect to do the check presentations in the next few weeks, pending the proper coordination with the two organizations. She also would like the public to know the fund plans to make the baseball tournament an annual event, with the next one scheduled for the fall of 2019. Additionally, the boys from the victorious Storm will be volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club on Dec. 1, helping to unload trucks for the annual toy drive.

To make a donation, visit begreatcamden.org/donate-now/. Make sure to put “Neil Levine Memorial Fund” in the notes section to ensure your donation will be added to the fund.

BOB HERPEN
BOB HERPEN
Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.
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