Southern Utah is well known for year-long softball play, attracting players and fans not only from Utah, but from surrounding states as well. Nothing showcases that more than the annual Toys for Kids Softball Tournament sponsored and run by the St. George City Recreation Department.
The rules of the tournament are simple; it is a co-ed, double elimination bracket with a small registration fee to cover facility use and to pay officials. The difference, and reason for its namesake is, every player listed on a team roster is required to donate a toy of $10 in value.
If a toy is not donated then the player must donate at least $10 in place of the toy, otherwise they are not allowed to participate. All toys and donations are then collected and distributed to needy children throughout southern Utah.
This year’s tournament has had a significant increase in participation, with a record- breaking 87 teams signing up for the event, translating to over 1,000 toys donated. This year officials had to use four softball complexes to accommodate all of the teams, including a rented complex from Santa Clara City.
“It’s always a lot of fun to have this tournament and help the needy kids of southern Utah,” said Tournament Director Krista Mayes. “It’s one of our most popular softball events and it seems to keep getting bigger and bigger each year.”
Wet and cold conditions did not dampen the spirit of competition nor the spirit of giving, as temperatures dropped into the low 40’s and a light rain began to fall around 8 o’clock. Teams continued to arrive, delivering their donated toys, and then playing their respective games.
Sandy Wilkinson and her family have made it an annual family tradition each holiday season. Traveling from Las Vegas, she and her husband, children and grand children pack up with gloves, bats and toys to have fun for a good cause.
“It’s a good thing, you’re bringing toys for a worthy cause and that’s what drew us to it,” Wilkinson said. “We saw that and said, this is fun and it’s a good cause.”
After all of the teams arrived and toys were collected, it took a large tow trailer and full-size box truck stuffed full to carry the toys away to be wrapped and delivered to children on Christmas morning–no doubt making that blessed day a little bit brighter for not only those who receive, but also for those who gave.