Wish Upon A Star benefit fit for survivors
By Dick Goss email@example.com January 12, 2011 5:54PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Sometimes, you have to wonder how executive director Don West and the Wish Upon A Star Foundation board do it.
The parade of celebrity guests that regularly graces the foundation’s annual Benefit Softball Game in the Snow is impressive enough, but a surprise or two always show up.
For example, for you Survivor fans, Laura Morett from Survivor Samoa has booked a flight and plans to appear for the 32nd annual benefit Saturday, Jan. 22 at St. Joseph’s Park.
How did that come about?
“It was Gordie Bonin,” West said of the NHRA Hall of Famer who himself attends the Wish benefit year after year. “He was called and asked to sign autographs for a kid (in Oregon), and Laura was there.
“He started telling her about our benefit, explaining it all to her, and she said, ‘Hey, I want to play in that softball game.’ She said she wouldn’t come if we didn’t let her play.”
Wish Upon A Star grants wishes to seriously and terminally ill children in the greater Will County area, and this event is its major annual fundraiser.
From the array of guests — most from the sports world — to the kids’ games and attractions in the afternoon, to the afternoon full of snow softball, to the food, drink, auctions and live music at night (with Freak from WRXQ 100.7-FM the master of ceremonies), the benefit remains a must on our winter calendar.
The softball games include the Lockport Police vs. the Lockport Fire Dept. at 1 p.m., the Romeoville Police vs. the Plainfield Police at 2 and the Joliet Police vs. the Will County Sheriff’s Department at 3.
All of that will serve as a prelude to the main event, the Wish Upon A Star All-Stars vs. the District 5 State Police at 5.
For whatever reason, West’s Wish Upon A Star team has shed a long losing streak and has been on the winning end the last couple of years. That, of course, can change again in a hurry.
The celebrity guests will sign autographs from 2-4:30 p.m. in the St. Joe’s pavilion. The admission, regardless of when you arrive, is $15, and once you’re there, you can get any and all autographs free of charge.
The early commitments, in addition to Morett, include these from baseball: Steve Parris, Sal Fasano, Brandon Sing, Sean Smith, Ethan Hollingsworth, Chad Ehrnsberger, Carlos May, Mark Carlson and Bill Haller, plus Mike Foltynewicz and several other up-and-comers from various major league organizations.
It’s not official yet, but former New York Mets second baseman and JackHammers manager Wally Backman has said he will make every effort to attend.
The racing contingent, in addition to Bonin, includes John Lawson, Cheryl Kolinek, Dan Sullivan, Mike Fraser, Larry McBride, AJ Henriksen and Wayne and Pat Minick.
From football, Bob Avellini, Brian Glasgow, Anthony Parker, Michael Blair, Tim Tyrell, Jason Burns, Shafer Suggs and former Honey Bear Gail Materko are expected.
Jay Crawford from ESPN’s “First Take” will return, and there’s the coup de grace — astronaut Paul Richards from Shuttle Discovery, who made a six-hour space walk.
“One of the big attractions last year was Bob Avellini,” West said. “He’s good with people, and they just fell in love with him.
“Paul Richards is really good, too. He has some wild stories.”
West said he has autographed Blackhawks team jerseys and signed jerseys from Matt Forte and Gale Sayers to be included in the auction, along with an official football from this season’s Bears-Eagles game, plus numerous signed bats, baseballs and photos.
With all of that going on, Joliet’s latest Hall of Famer may go unnoticed. Yes, former Lockport baseball coach Jim Hall, who was inducted last weekend into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, is a huge supporter of Wish Upon A Star and should be in the starting lineup for the featured softball game.
“He’ll be in there,” West said. “The only thing is, he will want an appearance fee now that he is in that Hall of Fame. Everyone will have to cough up more money to cover his cost.”
Just kidding, of course. Your $15 admission will get you everywhere you want to be, and you will be supporting a most worthy local cause.
Les’ Braidwood clinic
Years ago, one of the baseball players I interviewed at the Wish benefit was former Kansas City Royals outfielder Les Norman, who played locally at Reed-Custer and University of St. Francis.
These days, Norman, who also coached and played with the 2002 Joliet JackHammers, owns and operates The Swing Builder in Lee’s Summit, Mo., outside Kanasas City. He works with the Royals in various capacities, is a motivational speaker and hosts a weekly sports talk show on Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City.
And, he also travels to give clinics. On Sunday, Norman will return to his roots for his annual youth clinic at the Reed-Custer fieldhouse. The times are noon-2 p.m. for Grades K-5, 2:30-4:30 for Grades 6-8. The cost is $35 for pre-registration, $45 at the door. Call 1-816-695-0191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.