DU QUOIN — A benefit softball tournament raised an estimated $50,000 or more for Special Olympics Illinois Southern/Area 15 during the weekend.
The 2013 Southern Illinois Indoor Fast-pitch Softball Tournament, which began Friday and continues through today, drew 27 traveling teams to the Southern Illinois Center located at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. All proceeds go to support more than 840 Special Olympics athletes in Area 15, which includes Alexander, Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, Union and Williamson.
Bill Asbury of Du Quoin founded the event to help the organization.
“I have a daughter with Down Syndrome and I wanted to help her and other athletes. The Special Olympics was very important for her. She wanted to do what all the other girls were doing,” he said. “And she was able to through the Special Olympics.”
The tournament, which raised $131,000 in its first three years, is a labor of love for volunteers and sponsors who help make it a success, Asbury said during a special opening ceremony Saturday.
“They’ve put in countless hours. If not for them, this couldn’t be done,” Asbury said, and then told teams and audience members, “We could not raise this kind of money without every one of you guys.”
Teams were introduced at the start of the ceremony, which included music, dance, and oodles of colorful confetti. Each team was paired with a local Special Olympian as an honorary member who threw out first pitches during the ceremony.
The teams come for the competition but the cause is even more important, Southern Illinois Dirt Dawgs coach Brent Reno said.
“We’re here to support the Special Olympics,” he said of his 12 and under team. “It’s a great cause and that’s why we’re here.”
Play will wrap up with championship games later tonight.
On Twitter: @beckymalkovich