DRYDEN — With the 17th annual Gender Bender Slo-pitch Tournament fast approaching, the tournament chair Callie Donais is hard at work to ensure that everything is ready when teams hit the mound.
Donais has been running the two-day community-run event since 2014 when she took over are the chair.
Not only do Dryden mixed slo-pitch league participates in the tournament, but men and women from around the region and as far as Winnipeg also come out to play ball.
“Usually in the spring, people are asking what weekend it is because they book their holidays around this tournament. It's been going on for 17 years. It's like, kind of the end of summer. The closing out of the baseball season and everyone really looks forward to it before we have to get back to school,” said Donais.
All tournament's proceeds go straight back into Dryden’s Minor Softball League and the community.
So far, the Slo-pitch Tournament has donated over $23,000 from the raffle table and beer gardens to community projects such as play equipment for the local parks and the Dryden Recreation Extension and Modification (DREAM) Project. DREAM has been instrumental in collecting the fund for the Dryden Memorial Arenas expansion.
“We started out with actual baseball diamonds. We created the pavilions and got the lights going. Once that job was done, we moved on to the next. Then it was the arena. Once we got the funds for that, then it's to the next,” said Donais.
Proceeds in this year’s tournament toward Dryden’s dog park.
The proceeds from the canteen, which is run by Yvonne Lozej, owner of Your Choice Catering, go back into Dryden Minor Softball for equipment, uniforms, and supplies.
“She pretty much pays for her food. She gives all the donations right back to minor ball and even gives them a big chunk of food to start the canteen the next spring. Yeah, she GIVES right back,” Donais said.
The advocacy from tournament organizers brings together sponsors, which support the community by donating the raffle prizes.
In addition to the local business contributing to the event, Donais organizes a group of high school students to help set up the tournaments by raking and lining the fields.
“I'm the organizer, but I really can't do it without all my extra hands that I have. There are just so many people that are involved with it that I could not do it alone and I just want to make sure they all get there thank you,” said Donais.