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Softball tournament raises funds for Sunshine Shelter

NATCHEZ — Eleven softball teams bettered the community by forgoing slumber and showers and dodging heat and mosquitoes to play ball from 8 p.m. Friday until midday Saturday.

The sweaty all-nighter at the Vidalia High School softball field raised money for the Sunshine Children’s Shelter, which recently lost a $46,000 grant.

Cathy Warren of Natchez organized the event to support the shelter and its executive director, Matilda Stephens, whom Warren has known since first grade.

Stephens, who was at the softball field from 3 p.m. Friday to midday Saturday, said by Saturday morning she had collected more than $3,000 in profits.

Warren said many of the team sponsors donated more than the $130 required donation. In addition, local companies donated sports equipment, food, drinks and items for a raffle.

Saturday afternoon, Warren said she had not been home to shower or sleep.

She said she stopped by her son’s house to shower at 8 a.m., but he did not answer the door because he was taking a power nap before getting back to the baseball diamond.

Warren said a quick wash-up in the women’s bathroom at the field sufficed.

The tournament allowed for 23 games lasting 55 minutes or 7 innings. Teams were mostly composed of six men and four women, but Warren said some players were substituted when teams came up short.

Most Valuable Player went to Jamie “Hollywood” Robinson for playing left field or shortstop in every game.

“I’m tired, but it’s for a good cause,” Robinson said.

Clad in a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, baseball pants and cap in the Miss-Lou August heat, Eric “Cat-Eye” Dunham had nothing to complain about.

“I’m the coolest one here,” Dunham said from a dugout bench between shouting cheers for his teammates.

Dunham’s team, “Top Notch,” which was sponsored by Diamond and Blalock PC, played games at 2 a.m., 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Top Notch team member Vearlene Janel Thompson said the event was the first time she had played softball since graduating high school four years ago.

“It’s been good, but it’s been rough,” Thompson said.

“I probably ran off a half a pound in a day.”

The success of the tournament could have been attributed to Warren’s extensive fundraising experience.

Warren said she has organized more than 90 fundraisers in the past 25 years for families or individuals “down on their luck.”

When she hears about people from her church or in the community who need funds to help pay for cancer treatment, funerals, or other unexpected tragedies, Warren said she steps up to the plate.

The Friday and Saturday softball tournament fundraiser was the first time she raised funds for an established organization.

“I read about (the shelter’s grant loss in the newspaper) and we got busy,” Warren said.

“I don’t do it for the recognition, I do it for the cause,” she said.

Stephens said she has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support the community has given the shelter since it lost the grant.

The Sunshine Children’s Shelter received donations of approximately $17,000 in July alone, which is more than the shelter takes in most years, Stephens said.

Stephens dodged the heat and mosquitoes for the duration of the tournament along with the ball players.

“Cathy Warren is an amazing person,” Stephens said.

“It just goes to show what one person can do,” she said.

The Sunshine Shelter provides housing and resources to abused and neglected children.

Team sponsors included Graham Roberts, attorneys Bobby Cox and Scott McLemore, the law firm of Diamond and Blalock, Bruce Video Productions, Aftershock, Super Auto Glass, Alpha Insurance, Sports Center, Aftershock and Velocity.

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