Thirteen teams from all over the region battled in Bingham Park Saturday for a noble cause.
From the moment Emily Podunajec heard about little Elisha, she knew something had to be done to help him.
"Eli" is the son of Josh & Jennifer Roberts, both graduates of Western Wayne High School.
Nine months ago, the couple welcomed twins into the world, a boy and a girl, named Elisha and Emma.
Eli is a happy, bubbly boy who began having severe health problems at seven weeks. He was recently diagnosed with a brain stem tumor. This inoperable mass threatens his very life.
Answering the Call
The Roberts Family now lives in Tennessee where Josh is pastor at the Kingsport First Assembly Church.
About a month and a half ago, they reached out for help and Emily leapt into action.
She teamed up with classmate Kelly Daniel and formed the Help for Others Foundation. That, in turn, led to the creation of a benefit softball tournament.
"Slide for Eli" was held this past weekend at Hawley's Bingham Park.
This coed event attracted 13 teams from across the region, one of which came all the way from Mehoopany.
"I absolutely had to do something," she said. "Josh went to school with us and he posted on Facebook that the family was struggling."
Josh had to take a three month sabbatical from his role as pastor. The family packed up and re-located to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis.
As the entire family concentrated on Eli's life or death battle, medical bills began mounting ... and this is where Emily and Kelly come in.
"Kelly came up with the idea of a softball tournament and we just went with it," Emily said.
"We went to high school and college with Josh, so we're all friends. We just wanted to help out and this seemed like a good idea."
When Emily and Kelly went public with their idea, the community was quick to jump on board. Sponsors came out of the woodwork, players and team clamored to sign up.
"It was awesome," Emily said. "The community really stepped up to help."
All of the monies raised by the softball tournament, through sponsorships and raffles, will be given to the Roberts Family to help in Eli's fight.
On the Field
On Saturday morning, nearly 200 players turned out to take part in the first-ever Help for Others co-ed softball tournament.
Bingham Park provided the backdrop on a picture-perfect early summer day.
Action began at 8 a.m. and ran continuously until dusk. All told, 13 teams combined to play more than 20 games and generate thousands of dollars for the Roberts Family.
"They're very excited and can't wait to see pictures," an exhausted Emily said. "Eli had to have a surgery today, but he's doing well and we're all just hoping for the best."
A squad captained by Western Wayne wrestling coach Dante Terenzio finished up in third place with two losses.
Heath Kapschull, whose Hawley-based youth baseball squad recently made it all the way to the Wallenpaupack Area Little League championship game, led the one-loss runners-up.
Former Western Wayne standout Kenny Morris was in charge of the tourney's overall champion, which went undefeated over the course of five games.
This team was a veritable "Who's Who" of Wildcat athletic legends. Included on the roster were...
Ken Morris, Justin Collins, Drew Boandl, Brian Warholic, Brian Bolduc, Jason Kromko, Bob Barna, Will Hadden, Trina Carito, Erica Bylotes, Kellen Kraky, Maura McDevitt, Christina Abda and Sinead Geary.
Wallenpaupack Area grads were also represented, including former hoops stars Jaime Morgan, Annie Vega, Jessica Strasser, Jenna Morgan, Pete Steffen, JW Swanick and Jeff Swanick.