Hundreds Pitch in to Support Israel Despite Rainy Conditions
5th annual softball tournament raises over $60,000 for charitable causes
Over 300 braved the rain on Sunday for the fifth annual Scotiabank Pitch for Israel softball tournament at the Richmond Green Sports Park in Richmond Hill, where over $60,000 was raised to support the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and One Family Fund.
The Pitch for Israel was established in 2008 and has since become one of the largest annual Jewish sports fundraisers in Canada. Since its inception, the tournament has raised approximately $575,000 and has expanded to London, Ont. and Detroit, MI.
This year’s proceeds were directed towards two notable causes in Israel. Half of the funds were donated to a JNF scholarship fund to help the children of 41 prison wardens who perished in the Carmel forest fires of 2010 with their post-secondary education. The other 50 per cent will be used by One Family Fund to give Israeli children whose family members have been victims of terrorism the opportunity to attend summer camp.
“It’s amazing what can happen when we all pitch in,” said Kortney Shapiro, director of communications for the event. “That’s our tagline and we really love that because it gets people out on the field literally and figuratively.”
Starting at 8:30 a.m., 18 teams took to the field where they competed for approximately the next 10 to 12 hours. The teams were divided into divisions made up of men’s, women’s and co-ed teams, in which one champion from each division eventually emerged victorious.
“You’re working in your community for a better cause both in Canada and abroad and you’re having fun while doing it,” said Shapiro. “You’re batting it out with your buddies so it’s great.”
A barbeque lunch and awards ceremony took place halfway through the day, as organizers, sponsors and top fundraisers were honoured for their contributions. The rain managed to hold off until about 2:00, but as advertised, the participants continued playing rain or shine.
Daniel Warner, the founder and executive director of Pitch for Israel, said that as a decedent of Holocaust survivors, he views the tournament as a reflection of both the historical and contemporary importance of the State of Israel.
“I have a lot of family in Israel. I try to do whatever I can to help our brothers and sisters over there, particularly the children; to be able to send them to day camp or overnight camp, to healing camps, to educational programs and whatever I can do to help them become better people and get life experiences under their belt.”
Warner, an avid baseball player himself, said that the tournament’s original location was at Camp Robin Hood but as the years went on, he and his committee realized the need to expand to a larger venue in order for the initiative to reach maximum capacity.
“I really care a lot about the cause, with the charities that we work with and of course Israel,” said Warner. “I love creating events that enable Toronto Jewish youth around my age group to just be able to connect and engage, whether it just means showing up or fundraising.”
Vic Gupta, who was on hand to represent Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, said he and his party were happy to support such a worthy cause.
“I don’t think that issues of fundamental justice and freedom are exclusive to any one level of government,” said the PC candidate for Richmond Hill.
“While of course at an international level, our federal government is responsible for policies towards Israel and the Middle East, I think any politician has a responsibility to call out obvious racism and anti-Semitic behaviour wherever it may be. We have lots of supporters from the Jewish community and we’re proud to stand by the Jewish community.”
Warner concurred, proclaiming that Israel “really is a place of milk and honey.”
“If we’re not supporting Israel, who will?” he said. “We need to be standing up in solidarity and doing whatever we can to show people that it’s not what’s typically seen in the media. I recommend that those people who are on the other side of the fence go visit before criticizing.”