Former Sonics Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Slick Watts will be at Safeco Field on Saturday, June 21st at 3 PM for what may be the largest-ever benefit event for homeless youth in the United States, The All-Star Softball Classic. The event is a joint effort of the United Way of King County and the Seattle Mariners, and is presented by Microsoft. More than 13,000 tickets have already been distributed for the game.
The All-Star Softball Classic will feature a tremendous array of players and supporters. In addition to Gary, Shawn and Slick, other Seattle sports stars on the field will include the Mariners’ Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez; the Sounders’ Lamar Neagle and Osvaldo Alonso; and the world-champion Seattle Seahawks’ Jermaine Kearse and Cliff Avril. Other players include best-selling author Garth Stein, celebrity chef Ethan Stowell, and others.
Mariners Hall of Fame catcher Dan Wilson and his wife, Annie, are a driving force behind this game. The Wilsons are long-time advocates for homeless children and youth, and are energized by the Puget Sound community’s effort to do more for the roughly eight hundred 16- to 24-year-olds struggling with homelessness on any given night in King County. "It’s heartbreaking to meet young people who don’t have a stable home," says Dan Wilson. "They struggle to stay in school, which is so important to their future. And they’re vulnerable to people who want to exploit and hurt them. When I talk with these kids I see that they’re just like my kids — smart, resourceful, hopeful for the future. They deserve the same chance to thrive — and this game is a way for our community to make that possible." The Mariners are creating a special softball diamond on Safeco Field for the game. There will be an intense six innings of play, replete with hijinks. Safeco Field announcer Tom Hutyler will call the game.
The day will be a celebration of youth, raising awareness as homeless youth tell their own stories, often including experiences in foster care or being GLBTQ and having to leave home because their families couldn’t accept them.
Funds and awareness raised by the event support homelessness prevention programs like Safe Place, which intervenes when kids first hit the streets, reunites them with family if possible, or finds them a safe refuge. Funds also support shelter and housing, as well as programs that help kids finish school and land jobs.
All these efforts fit into a broad community plan for ending youth homelessness on which United Way is teaming with, among others, King County, the City of Seattle, the Raikes Foundation, the Medina Foundation and Building Changes, along with groups like YouthCare, Auburn Youth Resources and Friends of Youth.
I attended this event last year and it was a great afternoon boasting perfect weather and an opportunity to benefit a worthy cause. I’ll be attending again this year, covering the action for SonicsRising on the field. Tickets are $15 and are available at http://www.uwkc.org/news-events/event-calendar/softballclassic/ .
See you at the ballpark!