Local veterans play softball for a good cause

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All welcome at Memorial Day fundraiser in Sun City

by Melanie Aves/for Carolina Gateway
The Veterans’ Softball Group from Sun City Carolina Lakes (SCCL), will host its annual veterans’ softball game Monday, May 27, at the Waters Edge Park athletic complex in Sun City.
The festivities kick off at 1 p.m. with the presentation of colors by the Nation Ford High School ROTC Marine color guard and a flyover by the Sun City Blue Angels. The game begins immediately after the flyover.
One lucky winner of the silent auction, which precedes the game throughout the month of May, will get to be a passenger in one of the flyover planes.
The event is open to the public, not just to Sun City residents, and planners expect a crowd of around 500 people, making it one of the largest events to take place in Sun City. Food service is available throughout the game.
The event began in 2014 when Ron Sauer, Bob Paul and a friend who has since moved away were talking about what to do between the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Sun City’s Lake House in the morning and the community picnic supper put on by the Tailgaters in the early evening.
“We thought it would be fun to get together an afternoon softball game with the veterans we knew,” Sauer said. “We’d ask everybody to chip in 20 bucks or so, and we could use the money to support a veteran who needed a little help – like a new walker or something.”
The idea caught on, and soon there were 40 players signed up for a friendly rivalry.
“We had more Army guys than any other branch of the service,” said Sauer, “so we had the Army team play against a team made up of people from all of the other branches of service.”
Sauer and Paul are always looking for new recruits for the team.
“We need to keep the teams energized,” Paul said. “Even players who are not part of the softball league are welcome to join in.”
Through their teamwork, the veterans demonstrate the strong bonds established by their service to our country, bonds strengthened by events like the softball game. The oath taken to serve the country is one that never expires, Sauer said.
Although admission to the annual game is free, the Memorial Day softball game has become a successful fundraiser enthusiastically anticipated by many area veterans. The Tailgaters serve food, with all profits going to the veterans’ project. A 50/50 raffle is held on the day of the event to increase funds raised. There will also be a silent auction for many exciting prizes.
The game attracts a larger crowd of spectators each successive year, and all monies raised are donated to the Eagle Rock Camp, which provides counseling and rehabilitation services to returning veterans and their families.
Water’s Edge Park is at 3181 Sun City Blvd., Indian Land.
Bucket-list chance
Bill Crothers, an Air Force veteran and accomplished formation flyer, does a flyover with one or two fellow formation flyers after the colors are presented and the national anthem is played at the beginning of the game. His plane, an RV8 designed by Oregon resident Richard Van Grunsven, holds two people up to 6.5 feet tall.
“A few years ago, I suggested to Ron that they auction off the second seat in my plane to help raise some funds for Eagle Rock Camp,” Crothers said.
A silent auction for the seat in his plane is held throughout the month of May, with the winner climbing aboard the day of the softball game.
Sun City resident Susan Baumann won the auction two years ago, and proudly wore her uncle’s Air Force wings as she flew with Crothers over the softball field, the Catawba River and Sun City neighborhoods in a thrilling bucket-list adventure.
The opening bid for a seat in the plane is $200, with minimum bidding increments of $20. Anyone can bid by calling Donna Paul at 803-547-1895, or by emailing her at dynag1@yahoo.com.
Eagle Rock Camp
Eagle Rock Camp was started by former SCCL resident Lynn Marilla in 2008.
“Three generations of my family served our country in three different branches of service,” Marilla said. “I knew how this affected not just the service members, but their families as well, especially the children.” 
Many veterans face great difficulty when trying to re-adjust to civilian life. At least 20 veterans and service members are lost to suicide every day because they cannot overcome the struggles of what they have endured during their service to our country. The most recent statistics from Veterans Affairs show that 7,519 died by suicide in 2015.
To address the issue, Eagle Rock Camp provides week-long retreats for families facing the challenges of re-entering civilian life after military service.
The Softball Group joins others in letting veterans know they’ve got their backs during tough times. The work done by Eagle Rock Camp directly saves lives, families and marriages. Unlike charities with high administrative costs, this facility is completely managed by volunteers, with all funds raised going directly to the camp to help serve those who have served us.