DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — The beginnings of a tens of thousands of dollars a year fundraiser in Decatur can be traced back to a backyard field, and a teenager wanting to have some fun with his friends.
“Five years ago my son was begging us to have a wiffle ball tournament,” says Jeannie Parker, who owns the house where they host the torunament with her husband. “I was thinking i needed to have a pool and he said, ‘I think you need to have wiffle ball field.’ So we told him, ‘You know what? Let’s go for it.'”
The tournament grew from there. From just eight teams in that first year, to 55 now. They raised over $30,000 last year for Alzheimer’s research, a cause that is personal to the Parker family.
“My great grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was really true and dear to my heart,” says Ethan Parker. “Having the tournament through Alzheimer’s I’ve met a lot of great people and know everyone’s stories. I’m truly glad we did Alzheimer’s.”
This year the family also introduced the Wall of Remeberance, where people can honor loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s. The community support for the tournament has multiplied over the years. A lot of the people competing have had their lifes touched by the disease, which is just another reason to keep coming back to play.
“At that point in time my dad was in the nursing home with Alzheimer’s and he passed away right after the tournament,” says player Jon Alford about competing in the first tournament. “It meant a lot to me that we were raising money for Alzheimer’s and i wanted to be a part of it.”
Ethan Parker Field has now become a staple of the area. Parker says their unique set-up is another reason why teams keep coming back.
“Playing it when you’re a little kid, you dream of being in the majors,” says Parker. “You have all these fantasies and dreams, you want to be certain players. When these people come back, they get the same feeling all over again, and that’s why it stays.”
The tournament started Thursday. If you go to play or watch, you are asked to wear a mask and keep your distance. There will be over 100 games played this weekend, with the championship this Sunday.