Franklin Old-Timers game benefits late player’s children ...

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Published August 09. 2021 02:45PM

“Softball was her love, and this was the best way that we could possibly show our love for her was to do a memorial game for her.”

That was how Leann Thomas, a pitcher at the sixth annual Franklin Township Girls’ Old-Timers Softball Game, described why she wanted to be a part of this game: to honor her friend Vanessa Hand. Hand passed away in 2019 at the age of 34 and left behind her husband, Travis, and their children: Skyler Moyer, Chase Moyer, Emma Hand, Breydon Hand, Alexandria Hand and Ryan Hand. The proceeds from this year’s event will go toward college funds for the children. Vanessa Hand was very active in the Franklin Township Girls Softball program.

In Thursday’s Times News, Erica Mesaros, Hand’s sister, described Vanessa’s passion for softball.

“Vanessa was an All-Star pitcher, she had a huge love of the game, spent hours and hours on the mound,” she said. “It was a very important part of her life.”

The coordinators of the game are Don Rehrig, Tim Garrison and Jeff Smith.

“The basket auction is our biggest fundraiser,” Don Rehrig said. “At last count, we had at least 200 items. And all of the food for the food stand was donated, so all the money from food sales goes right to the fundraiser.”

A 50/50 drawing was also held during the game.

“And thanks to the Franklin Township Athletic Association for allowing us to use their field and stands,” Rehrig said.

Rehrig led the opening ceremony with girls from both teams lined up along the first and third base lines. The family members of Vanessa Hand were on the pitchers mound.

Pastor Cliff Eckhart of Blue Mountain Community Church led the prayer, and his wife, Pastor Jennifer Eckhart, sang the national anthem. All six of Vanessa Hand’s children threw out the first ball, which was six balls at one time. Each child was given a souvenir softball signed by the team members.

Janna Maxon, one of the players, said, “This game in particular is in memory of a girl that we grew up with and played with. It’s in honor of her and her kids.”

Maxon, who now lives in the Harrisburg area, makes the trip each year to take part in the game.

“This game is pretty much the only chance I get to play,” Maxon said, as she spoke just after making the game’s first score. “My daughter started to play softball the past couple of years, so now I’m a coach.”

Rehrig explained the Old-Timers game. “The girls program goes from T-ball up to the 16 and under team. After age 16 they can’t play any more, so the ones 18 and older come back and play the benefit game with us. Girls 18 years or older that have played through the system can come back and play. For this game today, we have 26 girls signed up. They come back and help us every year.”

Every year, the game raises funds for a local cause; previous recipients were the Franklin Township Fire Department, Lehighton Fire Department, Butch Rodgers Scholarship fund, and American Legion Post 314 of Lehighton.

Anyone who would still like to make a donation toward the Hand Children’s college funds may contact Rehrig at 610-762-9518.

The family of Vanessa Hand, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 34 and left behind her husband, Travis, and their children: Skyler Moyer, Chase Moyer, Emma Hand, Breydon Hand, Alexandria Hand and Ryan Hand. The sixth annual Franklin Township Girls' Old-Timers Softball Game, was a benefit to raise funds for the children's college funds. JIM LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Vanessa Hand's children, Skyler Moyer, Chase Moyer, Emma Hand, Breydon Hand, Alexandria Hand and Ryan Hand throw out the first pitch together. The sixth annual Franklin Township Girls' Old-Timers Softball Game was a benefit to raise funds for the children's college funds. JIM LOGUE JR./SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS