West Raleigh Baseball Association boosts kids, charity

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Eighty people, mainly children, helped raise over $30,000 last May to support cancer programs and research by shaving their heads.

The event, for the Vs. Cancer Foundation, was sponsored by the West Raleigh Baseball Association, a nonprofit spun off in the early 1990s from the West Raleigh Exchange Club.

Growing out of a youth baseball league the Club established in 1958 to help advance its mission of providing “service to family, community and country,” the Association serves over 800 children ages four to 14 through a baseball program each spring and fall.

The League operates with an annual budget of roughly $300,000, a full-time operations director and part-time bookkeeper, and nearly 100 volunteers, and generates all its revenue from registration fees and raffles.

The Association holds all its games on three fields at Exchange Club Park in West Raleigh, and pays rent to the Exchange Club to use those fields for games and practices, and to the city of Raleigh and the town of Cary to use their fields for practices.

The Association also supports charitable causes through volunteering and donations from dollars its raises at special events, says Gary Feder, president of the Association and general counsel at Lulu Press, a self-publishing company in Raleigh.

For many years, the Association raised nearly $10,000, mainly in in-kind support, to collect and prepare food for charities.

But this year, the group decided to step up its fundraising.

It teamed up with the Raleigh-based Vs. Cancer Foundation, which was created by Chase Jones, who as a freshman member of the varsity baseball team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer.

“The best part,” Feder says, was that the children returned to school after the event and had to explain why their heads were shaved.

“It started influencing teachers and friends and families, creating more awareness for kids with cancer,” he says.

The Foundation has divided the funds the Association raised between Duke Children’s Hospital, which will use the funds to buy iPads and computer games to improve the quality of life for kids undergoing chemotherapy, and for national research efforts.

In addition to its event for the Vs. Cancer Foundation, the Association for about 10 years has worked with the Exchange Club to deliver meals to the pediatric bone marrow transplant unit at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

One or two Sundays a month, 12 families from the Association each create a large dish and bring it to the Exchange Club, with Club members then delivering the dishes for use by family members staying with their children who are patients in the transplant unit.

The Association also holds two food drives a year to benefit Urban Ministries of  Wake County.

This spring, its drive generated 3,000 pounds of food worth over $6,000.

“As an organization, we want to be able to give back to the community,” Feder says. “Our kids are fortunate to be part of a great program. We’re an affluent community. We want our kids to learn more about life through baseball as well as giving to others.”

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