Cherry Hill National Athletic League hosted an athletic competition at Mead Park on Nov. 9-10, not for the love of the game or the glory of a golden trophy, but for those in the community who need a little extra support this time of year.
Dubbed the “Strike Out Hunger 14U Softball Tournament,” it was an eight-team, single-elimination competition featuring the hometown Cherry Hill Lions. An interesting twist regarding attendance was cooked up by the participants.
“It actually started with an idea from the girls, with it being Thanksgiving, they wanted to do something, but especially for the Food Pantry, which has helped so many people here in Cherry Hill,” explained Sal Caputo, Lions coach.
“So, we thought it would be a great idea to get together the food drive and instead of charging a monetary fee to participate – we have some of the best teams in travel softball in New Jersey who came today – the entrance fee would be a food item per player and coach.”
Before the tournament’s opening, councilwoman Carole Roskoph presented a proclamation to Caputo and his wife, Jackie, commemorating the effort. Midway through the first day, more than a dozen large boxes filled to the brim with food and other assorted needs were collected. Caputo marveled at the response.
“This thing started at 8 o’clock this morning and it was really cold, but we’ve had at least 150 coaches and parents. I’m very pleased (with turnout) especially for a late fall day,” he said.
All proceeds from the two-day competition were to benefit the pantry, which is always looking for donated goods, but is about to undertake a move in the middle of the holiday rush.
“There are a lot of things we need, especially toiletries like shampoo and soap and things like that, which are an immediate need. People in general don’t know that; even people on food stamps cannot buy any toiletry items with food stamps. The program was always set up for just food and you can’t buy these other needed items,” noted Janet Giordano, volunteer executive director for the pantry.
Caputo said the tournament yielded a whopping 827 pounds of food and other goods collected from the eight participating teams, umpires and the families of the players. The drop-off, according to Jackie Caputo, was to be made to the pantry on the week of the Nov. 11.
Giordano spoke about the logistic issues inherent in a high-volume period of donations intersecting with their impending relocation.
“We’re in good shape as far as food, but our dilemma is, we have to do large distributions especially around Thanksgiving when our numbers grow. And we also have to get ready to move in the first week of December, it’s looking like. So we have to pack everything and move it. It’s not a simple thing to do. We are working on it,” she explained.
Giordano suggested that anyone in the township who wants to donate to the pantry through the season should visit its website, cherryhillfoodpantry.org, and submit their financial gift that way.
“Every dollar, even if it’s only a dollar, is needed right now for the move. We have numerous groups – including this one – that have already committed to doing food drives and again, it’s going to be harder to pack anything left and move it.”
As for the Lions, they made it to the championship game after wins over the Warriors and West Jersey Wicked, but dropped a 5-3 decision to Lady Bombers.
“The families and coaches and the volunteers have made this team what it is, and we are the only travel softball team left that carries the Cherry Hill name. Brand new team, great kids, great character, just as important as great skill, and we’re always looking for great players who match the culture,” Caputo added.
For more information on the softball league, visit http://cherryhillnational.website.siplay.com/