Sometimes, softball is all fun and games. Other times, softball is a home run for the entire community. Such is the case for the 41st Sickle Cell Softball Tournament, coming July 13-15 at Cargill Park.
The Sickle Cell Softball Tournament is the major fundraiser for the Northwest Louisiana chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. Director Lillian Bradford said this year’s goal is to raise $50,000. “If we can get the teams in here and have a good weekend, we can do it,” she said.
“These funds are used to help patients that are in need that are not on Medicaid or Medicare,” she added. “Many can get help, but not with all the things they need. Sickle Cell affects the whole family. We come in and try to subsidize the family, whether it’s for emergency medical needs, housing, transportation, or whatever else they need.”
Tournament Director Herman Vitale said the tournament started as a way to educate people about sickle cell disease.
“We are all softball players, so we decided we’d utilize our skills to help out,” he said. “So we invited our friends to come out and help with that. It’s a good thing for the community. People come to play because it’s a good cause.”
Historically, the tournament brings 150 to 200 softball teams from across the country to the Shreveport-Bossier area. They not only compete on the field, they stay in area hotels, eat at area restaurants and entertain themselves and their families at local venues throughout their stay. It impacts the local economy to the tune of $750,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the number of teams in the tournament.
This will be the second tournament after a two-year hiatus for renovations at Cargill Park. Roy Burrell, chairman of the tournament’s organizing committee, said he is pleased with the progress, even as he describes this as a “rebuilding mode.”
Vitale and Burrell both encourage the community to support the tournament and its family atmosphere. Burrell’s committee is working with a local company to provide bouncy slides and water slides that children and adults both can enjoy. They also are working to provide a fireworks show. Vitale said locals could help by making a donation, buying a commemorative T-shirt and patronizing the vendors at the tournament.
Burrell, whose background is in economic development, said he would like to see updated data on the tournament’s immediate and long-term economic impact on the area.
“It is a big tournament,” Burrell said. “It not only fills the beds, but those players are looking for places to eat. The restaurants and the hotels really benefit from it, along with any other attractions. They all benefit. If we are bringing these people in who promote our area, when they leave they are going to talk about it. Not only do we have an economic impact that weekend, but they take the message with them. The residual value is unestimated.”
For registration and more information, visit the tournament’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sicklecellsoftballtournament/.