In an effort to support the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Childhood Cancer Awareness, USA Softball of Arkansas hosted two fundraisers selling t-shirts and autographed softballs to generate funds that were donated to the local hospital.
“Giving back to your local community, especially something as special as the Children’s Hospital, is important,” said USA Softball of Arkansas Commissioner, Walker Clark. “It’s what we should all be doing. Anytime that we are able to give back and support, that’s what we do here at USA Softball of Arkansas.”
For the first fundraiser, USA Softball of Arkansas brought in USA Softball Women’s National Team members Cat Osterman and Kelsey Stewart to the Hiland Dairy Classic softball tournament in remembrance of Carol Hudgens, a close friend to Walker and his wife, Holly Clark. Osterman and Stewart signed softballs and from those proceeds, a total of $2,000 was donated to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which was where Carol had asked all donations to be made in honor of her former role as the Hospital’s Vice President of Finance. USA Softball of Arkansas also honored Carol’s daughter, Ashley Wise, along with the daughter of a USA Softball of Arkansas umpire, Nici Belknap, by selecting the NICU as the department to receive the donation. Both Hudgens and Belknap currently work as NICU nurses at the hospital.
“The first time Walker and I met Carol was through softball,” said Holly Clark. “Our daughters were a couple years apart but played at the same ballpark, so they quickly became a part of our softball family. You have your real family, then you have your softball family and we are just really glad we were able to support our softball family by giving back to something that is so important.”
The second fundraiser was in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness and was initiated by USA Softball of Arkansas Tournament Director, Robert Byrd, who battled cancer at a young age. With the goal of raising money for children battling this disease, USA Softball of Arkansas and Byrd designed a logo and sold 250 t-shirts at the “Hitting for Cancer” softball tournament which generated $2500 for the Hematology/Oncology (HEM/ONC) departments at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“Robert came to me back in August about wanting to do something to recognize and support Childhood Cancer Awareness,” said Walker Clark. “I instantly said we would be willing to help in any way that we could, because that’s what we do.”
“Using the sport of softball to support something like Childhood Cancer is huge for us,” Holly Clark added. “It’s more than profits, though. It’s about using our sport to benefit others. Softball is special and I think it can be used for more than just a game.”
USA Softball of Arkansas hopes to continue their support of the Children’s Hospital by making the “Hitting for Cancer” tournament an annual event with the hospital becoming more involved in future years.
“We chose the Arkansas Children’s Hospital because we felt like it was a great way to keep including the kids that maybe can’t be on the field,” said Holly Clark. ”Just letting them know that we are always thinking about and supporting them.”