When the Boston Red Sox report to Southwest Florida for Spring Training, they do more than work on their baseball abilities. Much more.
Before the first Grapefruit League exhibition game is played on the field, the Red Sox turn their talents and abilities loose on the community that they call home for eight weeks in the spring. The community is better for it.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County is better for it. Habitat for Humanity is better for it. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast is better for it. Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida is better for it. So are several other area charitable entities, such as the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
CAROL ORR HARTMAN
Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright takes a moment to sign a fundraising placard for a hole sponsor.
All before Red Sox fans everywhere got to see their team play an official Spring Training game at JetBlue Park.
The community event that enjoys the most glitz and glamour is the 20th annual Red Sox Tee Party & Auction and Celebrity Golf Classic, which draws thousands of generous people and celebrities to The Forest Country Club. All money raised goes to the building fund to expand Golisano Children's Hospital, which aims to provide state-of-the-art lifesaving care for children of Southwest Florida. It is the only specialized pediatric care facility between Tampa and Miami. Shelley and Jack Blais match those funds dollar-for-dollar and the total amount will be matched by B. Thomas Golisano.
The 8th annual Red Sox Dinner and Auction raised more than $90,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs.
"This year we had the largest turnout with more than 310 in attendance," Jim Larkin, Crowne Plaza Hotel general manager and event chairman said. "We are very thankful to all of our sponsors and guests who have helped the Boys and Girls Clubs to give our at-risk youth a safe place for them and a supporting role in their lives."
The event was held for the first time at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox's 106-acre Spring Training and Player Development Complex, located at 11500 Daniels Parkway. Red Sox players Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, pitcher Joel Hanrahan and new manager John Farrell signed autographs.
The Boys and Girls Clubs uses the funds to serve the needs of more than 420 young people in Southwest Florida.
Team personnel performed a number of non-profit community service and fundraising projects all week long. It began with a public open house at JetBlue Park with family-friendly activities, autographs, food and entertainment. Donations to also were made to Florida's Blood Center.
Red Sox players and staff volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, assisted with CCMI's Backpack Program at Treeline Elementary, and the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
"For many years we have supported various fundraisers in Southwest Florida and two years we began adding additional activities to highlight the good work of organizations in Lee County that, every day, are serving people here who are most in need," said Katie Hass, Red Sox director of Florida business operations. "This year we branched out even further into the community to celebrate the second year of JetBlue Park and Fenway South and spent time helping even more of our community neighbors."
The Red Sox played the first of their 20 official exhibition home games on Saturday at JetBlue Park. The spring slate features eight night games, including a matchup on Tuesday, March 5, with Team Puerto Rico, which is preparing for the third World Baseball Classic.
The Red Sox play the crosstown training rival Minnesota Twins for the first time Saturday afternoon at the Twins' Hammond Stadium. The Twins have established their own service and charitable events to benefit the Southwest Florida community.