Military Appreciation Day, sponsored through the Lee University baseball team and hosted at the four-year school’s Olympic Field stadium, will debut from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. as part of the Flames’ doubleheader against the Talladega (Ala.) College Tornadoes.
The event originally had been scheduled for earlier; however, the threat of inclement weather forced the outdoor fundraiser’s postponement.
Truly, regardless of date, it will be a festive — and reflective — event well worth attending.
The baseball will be among the best in the region, but the cause is the day’s biggest attraction. The event will focus on honoring all veterans and active military members of the Cleveland and Bradley County community.
The idea can be credited to Mark Brew, Flames baseball coach who is serving as director of Military Appreciation Day. Brew is working to carry on a growing Lee University tradition — especially in the athletics program — of reaching out to the surrounding community and reaching in to help meet the needs of its residents.
For those who believe this sounds familiar, it should. For the past few years, Lee University women’s volleyball coach Andrea Hudson has led a slew of Lady Flames teams in coordinating Volley for a Cure, a community fundraiser whose proceeds support the MaryEllen Locher Foundation which doles out scholarships to area students.
Past and present Lee University students, whose parents have been affected directly or indirectly by breast cancer, have been recipients of Locher Foundation support.
Through Volley for a Cure, talented — and community-minded — athletes at Lee University have made their mark personally, spiritually and emotionally on families, and individuals, within the Cleveland hometown that surrounds their beautiful campus.
Similar expectations are already being nurtured through Military Appreciation Day. The key difference is proceeds from this community fundraiser will support the development of the proposed Veterans Memorial Park. The facility, which has been discussed informally for several years, will be located west of the Spring Creek residential development near the Lee University campus at the corner of Veterans Memorial Highway (APD 40) and Parker Street.
Brew said it best himself in discussing why his young athletes’ want to get involved.
“These men and women [veterans] serve selflessly and do not ask for recognition in return,” he told our newspaper. “It is our privilege to honor them in this way.”
The day will center around the Flames’ doubleheader with the first pitch being thrown out by a local veteran. The invocation will be led by Oscar Kelley, a U.S. Army veteran and chaplain for American Legion Post 81. “God Bless America” will be performed by Tom Wickes, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former music minister at First Baptist Church of Cleveland.
Admission to the game is free and donations are being accepted. Proceeds are also being raised through the sale of T-shirts for $10, and also by a silent auction at the games. T-shirts will be available during the event, and are already being sold at Jenkins Deli, the downtown main office of the Bank of Cleveland and at the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Other highlights still scheduled for the day — but awaiting confirmation because of the postponement — include activities for the kids like inflatables, whiffle ball and a radar gun speed throw. Also, a No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. NASCAR race car will be on display, as will a variety of military equipment. Food vendors will be on-site, along with mascots from the Chattanooga Lookouts, Chick-fil-A and Zaxby’s.
Free food and goodie bags will be given out to the first 250 veterans or active military members in attendance.
Sound like a good time? It will be.
For more information, contact Brew at 423-614-8638 or send an email at email@example.com.
Load up the family and head over to Lee University come Saturday, April 6.
Like we said, the baseball will be among the finest around. And the cause? Priceless.