The first annual Papa Hops 16-inch softball tournament in 2014 was so successful that tournament organizers have added a second site for games this year.
In the inaugural event, 18 teams participated in the tournament that raised more than $10,000 for the Tom Hopkins Memorial Fund, which supports local youth athletics, local families in need, and research and awareness in the fight against melanoma.
This year’s tournament will be held on Friday, July 17.
“My dad used to run a Sunday summer softball league because he was big on keeping Kennedy Park and the community active,” said Liam Hopkins. “My mom says that, when tragedy happens, it brings everyone together. That’s one of the special parts about this community. People helped us, and we want to give back.”
Despite its charitable aspect, the tourney will also be full of action.
“This is a competitive tournament with some of the top teams around,” Hopkins said. “But it’s also a fun night, and everyone comes out to support families in need and youth athletics and the fight against melanoma. That’s the nature of what this is all about.”
Last year’s event sent a message, loud and clear, and 10 more teams have joined the competition to bring the total to 28.
Tom Hopkins, who died of melanoma in March of 2014, was actively involved in his children’s athletic endeavors, whether it be football, lacrosse, basketball or any other sport. When he was the commissioner of St. Cajetan football in the early 2000s, Hopkins pushed for the installation of a scoreboard at Kennedy Park.
That dream will now become a reality, thanks to money raised at last year’s tournament.
A new wireless scoreboard will be located in a spot where two diamonds that are used by local baseball and softball teams can use it as well as the St. Cajetan football team during its season.
“This isn’t just for Kennedy Park. Tom would want the whole community to have use of it,” said his widow, Marge Hopkins. “Whether it’s used for baseball or softball, the men’s and women’s softball leagues or St. Cajetan, the scoreboard will be for everyone.”
Marge and her family hope this is an event that continues to make people smile for years to come.
“There was so much life at the park last year, and it was a great event,” she said. “We don’t stop moving. The beauty of this event is you see young kids who understand the cause. We want to keep paying it forward. It’s the beauty of our neighborhood.”
Games will kick off at 5 p.m. at Kennedy Park, 11320 S. Western Ave., and Mt. Greenwood Park, 3721 W. 111th St., with the tournament shifting to Kennedy Park at 7 p.m., when games will be played under the park’s new lights.
Last year’s event was played with temporary lights. Liam Hopkins said he expects the championship game to start around 10 p.m.
For information on becoming a sponsor for the tournament, contact Josh Blaszak at (773) 727-0238.