The first story in our Philly sports Philanthropy series highlights the local high school home run derby “Homers for Hope,” which is spearheaded by area banker and New Jersey independent league baseball player John Durso, in memory of his friend, Rip Roscioli – and raises funds for families in need.
While Phillies fans are especially excited about spring training and the beginning of baseball season, this time of year is also the start of another great annual baseball event that is quickly gaining recognition and acclaim in the tri-state region.
The event is called “Homers For Hope.” If you don’t already know about it, you will soon.
Homers for Hope is the brainchild of John Durso, a player from independent adult baseball leagues who is also vice president/market manager of St. Edmonds Bank in Ardmore, Montgomery County. In 2008, Durso lost a baseball buddy, Rip Roscioli (pictured on the right in the cover photo), in a tragic accident. Roscioli was only 30 at the time, and he left a wife and autistic son with financial needs. Durso and other baseball friends formed a local home run derby in 2009 to donate the proceeds to the Roscioli family.
The home run derby was such a success that Durso, a visionary and passionate community leader and servant who saw similar needs in other area families, decided to expand the contest – now in its third year – to include high school students and volunteer community groups. Thus, “Homers For Hope” was born.
The way Homers For Hope works is that each participant will have his or her own web page through Firstgiving.com. The first 100 boys and first 100 girls who raise $500 will be eligible to compete in at least five field sites throughout the Delaware Valley. This is a terrific way for high schoolers to use the social network for a noble cause.
The top 20 participants from both the male and female categories will compete at various sites on July 2, 2011, and the top two home run hitters from each site will advance to the Finals the next day at Campbell’s Field, home of the Camden Riversharks.
“People should lend a helping hand when the opportunity arises, and the Riversharks organization is proud to be a part of this effort for a truly great cause,” said Aaron R. Moss, Corporate Partnerships Manager of the Camden Riversharks. “If we can chow down on some hot dogs and watch a little baseball in the process, that’s even better.”
For the high school home run hitters, there will be scouts and college recruiters present at each of the preliminary event locations. The top fundraisers in each category (boy, girl, adult) will also get to throw out the first pitches at the Riversharks-Road Warriors game on July 23, 2011, where the Homers For Hope organization and the winners will be honored. Every student who participates will get a letter of recommendation highlighting their fund-raising efforts, which they can use for college. All the other great incentives, for both the schools and participants, are listed on the web site. Homers For Hope, which operates under the fiscal sponsorship of the non-profit Delaware County Community Foundation, provides an opportunity to help the community while taking part in the national pastime and supporting students, parents, adults, and families in need. If you want to become part of the “Homers For Hope” family either by participating, volunteering, coming to the event or donating funds, go to www.homersforhope.org to find out how to get involved.
In addition to all the young men and women who participate, Homers for Hope wouldn’t be as successful without the participation of community business and volunteer organizations, such as the Rotary Club and church groups. The following is a list of some of the sponsors, events they are holding and why they chose to get involved with Homers for Hope.
Derrick Morgan is a volunteer who works with Durso on advertising and promoting the event and also owns the Monkey’s Uncle, a unique vintage and retro inspired retail clothing store and “Homers For Hope” sponsor, in Doylestown, Bucks County. Morgan played in the Fairmount Park A League in the late 1990s with both Durso and Roscioli. They grew up together playing baseball and they were all devastated when they lost Roscioli, whom Morgan describes as a laid back, jovial guy. Morgan said that the amateur adult baseball leagues in the Philadelphia area were a close-knit group and one big extended family.
The family atmosphere is why Gary Shears of the New Jersey Independent Baseball League got involved. NJIBL is an organization of 66 teams started by Shears that wanted to be more than just another competitive baseball league for adults. They wanted to give back to the community. And they have.
Through the support of such groups as the Salt Shaker Foundation and PJ Whelihans Restaurants, Shears says the NJIBL, which he has labeled “baseball with a conscience,” has had great success in three short years. It has raised funds for such worthy charities as the Fallen Heroes Foundation and cancer organizations throughout New Jersey.
So it is only natural that Shears, who knows Durso through playing with the NJIBL, would become a part of the “Homers For Hope” family. NJIBL is now sponsoring an adult portion of the contest that will mirror the students’ efforts.
There are many branches in this growing family tree of “Homers For Hope”. Ann Marie Casey, who owns a photography studio (Ann Marie Casey Photography) near where Durso works, has volunteered her services to promote, photograph and film the event along with Brian Airgood, an Emmy Award-nominated videographer. This year, they will capture photos and video of the whole contest from start to finish and create a documentary.
Casey is also sponsoring an “Open Call” at the Case Gallery in Ardmore for artists to display their art work from March 11-April 7. Donations and sales from the artwork will go to Homers For Hope. Having arts and sports working together for the community in this way is another way in which Homers for Hope is unique.
Another art form is Web site designing, and Homers For Hope is blessed to have the services of Roger Panfil and his sons, Ryan, 24 and Jordan, 25 of RDC Design Group in Philadelphia and Yardley, Bucks County, who volunteered countless hours of their time and energy designing the magnificent Homers for Hope web site.
Roger Panfil says he thinks it’s a brilliant idea to take an event like the popular home run derby of the MLB All Star Game and use that format as well as social media marketing to raise money for a worthy cause. RDC stands for “Real Damn Cool,” a credo that could also be used to describe the Homers For Hope project.
Another designer that should be acknowledged is Karen Fiore of Fiore Design Group in Ardmore. Fiore donated her services to develop the Homers For Hope logo, as well as provide brochures and sponsor forms for the event.
Fiore, Morgan and Casey have all echoed the importance of the great cause they and “Homers For Hope” are supporting. Casey has a close friend who in her 20s lost her father with no pension or life insurance for the family. In this struggling economy, everyone probably knows at least one family in dire straits. This project is a great way to serve the needy in the community.
Homers For Hope is especially thankful for their sponsors: the Camden Riversharks, Rutter Roofing and St. Edmond’s Federal Savings Bank.
“St. Edmond’s FSB is thrilled to support Homers For Hope and its mission to help neighbors in need,” said Pamela Cyr, President and CEO of St. Edmond’s Bank. “As a neighborhood community bank, we are extremely grateful to have co-workers on our bank team like John Durso who go above and beyond every day for customers, the community and co-workers.”