Friends of Foster Children plays a critical role in helping the approximately 1,700 foster children in Palm Beach County. Next weekend, the entire community will have the opportunity to embrace these kids by taking part in the Jim Sackett Invitational Celebrity Softball Tournament.
“If you want to come out and see some good softball, come on out Saturday, May 7 to Okeeheelee Park. The first game starts at 7:45 a.m., and the games go on all day,” said Wellington resident and retired news anchor Jim Sackett, who sits on the board of the Friends of Foster Children. “One of our board members knew that I really loved to play softball, and still do, and she just kind of threw it out there one board meeting: ‘Why don’t we just have a softball tournament and you can invite teams?’ That was the genesis of the whole thing.”
Since then, the event has been getting bigger and better each year. As of this week, 22 teams are signed up to participate. Sackett said that so many teams, playing for a nonprofit fundraiser, coming together for one day is unusual.
“It’s an opportunity for guys who like to play softball to come out, enjoy themselves and raise money for a good cause,” Sackett said.
Sackett will be playing on the Golden Clippers, a 65-and-older team. The tournament is divided into three age groups: 50s, 60s and 65 and up. The age groups will be kept together as they play on the four fields at Okeeheelee Park.
Seeing old friends, many of whom he hasn’t seen for an entire year, is one of the things Sackett is looking forward to. Many of the same teams come back year after year. At the end of the day, knowing that the money raised will be going to Friends of Foster Children is important to Sackett.
Though the tournament is named in Sackett’s honor, it really is all about helping the children.
“It has had such an impact,” said Coleen LaCosta, director of development for Friends of Foster Children. “It generates community awareness.”
When Sackett was the news anchor at WPTV-News Channel 5, he would feature children who needed to be adopted.
“He has always been involved and passionate about helping our kids who are suffering, and getting them services and homes. He’s incredible,” LaCosta said of Sackett. “It brings further awareness to people who may or may not have ever thought about the fact that there are these kids in Palm Beach County.”
Friends of Foster Children provides services to children in out-of-home care, in foster homes, placement homes or group homes. There are activities, emergency bags, clothing, tutoring, and enrichment such as prom dresses and safety patrol trips. “When they move, the emergency bags help the children who don’t have anything,” LaCosta said.
The group conducts special events and hosts picnics, including visits to the South Florida Fair, all of which are done through community donations. Help from the tournament gets Friends of Foster Children to a place where the organization can help more children.
“The impact and that ripple effect is huge,” she said.
LaCosta estimates that approximately 600 children will be helped by the softball tournament, which has helped Friends of Foster Children finance many events.
“Each year, it has that much more of an effect,” she said. “These are things that, without [Sackett’s] help, we wouldn’t be able to do.”
This year, LaCosta said, the event will raise almost $9,000 for the group — that that’s before the raffles, auction and concession sales.
Each year, more money is raised, and the tournament is structured in such a way as to allow it to continue to expand.
Everyone in the community is welcome to attend.
“Come on by, and we’ll give you information on what is happening out there, and have a good time,” LaCosta said.
The sponsors — Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley Attorneys at Law, WPTV-News Channel 5, Pepsi, Brass Monkey Tavern, Dunkin’ Donuts, Bush Brothers, Chiefs Cookies & Snacks, Walmart and the Wellington Seniors Club — all help make the event possible.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be raising the money that we are,” Sackett said of the event sponsors, as well as the employees and volunteers at Friends of Foster Children.
The organization always needs supplies to make bags for children. New and gently used items such as clothing, shoes, sports equipment, strollers, cribs, diapers, toothbrushes and other items are always needed. Large-item donations are requested to be brought to the office, but any small items can be brought to the tournament.
Sponsorships, ranging from $60 to $1,500, and auction item donation spots are still available. For sponsorship information, or to learn more, call LaCosta at (561) 352-2542 or visit www.friendsoffosterchildren.com.