Big Sky League, families helped by generosity of others

2011-10-25T16:53:00Z 2011-10-26T08:25:03Z Big Sky League, families helped by generosity of othersBy SUSAN OLP Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
October 25, 2011 4:53 pm  • 

The Big Sky Little League All-Stars' dramatic run in the Little League World Series inspired an outpouring of financial support to the Big Sky Little League, and to the families of the 12 players.

A final count of donations to the Big Sky Little League totaled $30,343, said Tim Leuthold, president of the league.

"Big Sky has been the beneficiary this past summer of tremendous support from a wonderful community and state," Leuthold said.

A separate account for the families, called the Hello Williamsport fund, collected just more than $50,000. That money was distributed equally to the families to cover their expenses associated with the World Series.

"It was overwhelming," parent Robbie Smith said. "It exceeded our expectations to the nth degree."

The 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars and their coaches flew to San Bernardino, Calif., in early August for the Northwest Regional Championship. The families traveled separately to California to root on the boys.

After Big Sky secured one of 16 spots in the Little League World Series tournament on Aug. 13, the players and coaches flew back East. Parents and siblings came soon after, scrambling to find flights and motels to stay in for the duration.

The team and coaches returned to Billings on Aug. 28. Fundraisers were held during and after the World Series.

Leuthold said the biggest donation to the Big Sky Little League came from T-shirt sales organized by Universal Athletics, which netted $9,000 for the league. Posters created by The Billings Gazette brought in $4,000, and the newspaper contributed another $3,000 in proceeds from a special section. The Yellowstone County Licensed Beverage Association donated $5,000.

The Dehler Park celebration, organized by the Billings Chamber of Commerce garnered almost $2,900. Blue Cross/Blue Shield donated $1,000 of that amount to offset expense of the celebration, Leuthold said.

Walmart also contributed several boxes of end-of-season equipment to Big Sky. That included bats, balls, gloves and equipment.

Of the amount the league received, $3,259 went toward expenses related to the team's trip to South Williamsport for the Little League World Series, Leuthold said. Little League International covered the majority of expenses for players at the World Series, paying transportation costs and providing lodging and meals for the players and coaches.

But that still left some expenses that the Big Sky League had to cover, Leuthold said. The league also voted to donate $5,000 of the money to the Centennial Park baseball project in Billings, which will benefit all of the baseball leagues, he said.

Big Sky League plans to share the donated equipment with the 10 other leagues in Billings' District 1, Leuthold said. Some of the remaining $22,083 will be set aside in case any of the Big Sky League's All-Star baseball or softball teams make it to the regional level next year, he said.

The league's board members will then consider the best use of the rest of the funds, Leuthold said.

"We'll look to opportunities either internally in our own league or externally to see how we benefit our district," he said.

Smith said the Hello Williamsport account was set up when people in the Billings community and beyond expressed a desire to help defray the families' World Series expenses. Individuals from as far away as Maryland contributed money, he said.

"A lot of local businesses hosted parties and people would gather to watch the game, and several businesses set up collections," he said.

The families also hosted a fundraiser after the players and parents returned from the World Series. The fund, he said, allowed every single parent to be able to attend the World Series, for which they are all grateful, Smith said.

"It just shows there are really good people out there," he said.

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