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BA tournament a huge success
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Statesboro High's Morgan Thompson (6) gets a lift from catcher McKenzi Wilkerson after Thompson's triple in the sixth inning gives the Blue Devils a victory over Bulloch Academy in the final game of the Strike Out Alzheimer's tournament Wednesday.

    On a sweltering Wednesday afternoon, Statesboro High School and Bulloch Academy squared off in the showcase game of the 5th Annual Mirian Burnette “Strike Out” Alzheimers tournament.
     Statesboro beat Bulloch 7-6 on a walk-off, bases-loaded double by Morgan Thompson, but that was just a footnote in the grand scheme of things. The real reason 15 teams from around the area come out to play is to raise awareness and money for a deadly disease that kills more people than breast cancer and kidney cancer combined.
     “I don’t think people realize what kind of impact Alzheimer’s can have on a family,” said Casey Corley, constituent events director at the Alzheimers Association, who was present to receive the total donation from the tournament. “We’re here to help people realize they’re not alone when they’re faced with this disease and we can help.”
    Before Statesboro and Bulloch Academy ever threw a pitch or swung a bat, tournament co-chairs Chandler Dennard and Darron Burnette met out in front of home plate with Corley to present a check worth $21,950 — almost $2,000 past their projected goal.
    “It feels really good when you reach past your goal for the second year in a row,” Dennard said. “We’ve raised $45,000 in two years and nearly $85,000 dollars in the five years we’ve been doing this, so knowing all that I’ll say it’s been a pretty good day.”
    The money raised mainly came from sponsors and donations from surrounding businesses, but a surprise success came from the raffle drawings. Prizes ranged from Atlanta Braves tickets, Georgia Southern sideline passes and even a two night stay in Hilton Head. Dennard says to look for the raffle to continue to get even better prizes for the years to come.
    “We started out with smaller things,” Dennard said. “But as the tournament has grown we’ve had more and more people get involved with the donations. Howard Lumber, Georgia Southern Athletics and whole community really gives in for this event.”
    Corley was in full agreement. She reiterated how thankful the Alzheimer’s Association was to have an event like this in Statesboro.
    “Statesboro is a remarkably giving community,” Corley said. “Of all the counties we deal with here in the coastal Georgia region, this is the most unique because it brings a whole new demographic to the fundraiser. It’s not just people in Bulloch County who come out to participate; it’s all the teams in the surrounding counties too.”
    It hasn’t taken long for word to spread to surrounding schools. Edmund Burke head coach Randy Broxton said it was his girls who made him aware of the tournament, and that they’ll be back next year.
    “I asked the girls where they wanted to play in the preseason and they pretty unanimously chose Statesboro,” Broxton said. “They were eager to support  the tournament and I found it to be very well run.”
    Local coaches also have strong feelings about the cause supported by the Tournament. Southeast Bulloch head coach Aimee Civalier recently lost her coaching idol to Alzheimer’s and the effect on her was profound.
    “Pat Summit was my role model, and watching her decline was really hard to watch,” Civalier said. “She was barely 60 years old, and she went from one of the best coaches in the history of sports to dead in a matter of four years. It was just terrible.”
    Summit, who was the longtime head coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, passed away earlier in July to Alzheimers after a four year battle with the disease. It brought national attention to the disease and has helped spur awareness for finding a cure.
    But while Summit’s passing was a national spectacle, the Burnette tournament and other small benefits like it are the real force behind finding a cure for Alzheimers. The money raised goes directly to helping the Alzheimrs Assocition’s services.
    “We have a number of resources for families to help them in their time of need,” Corley said. “From a helpline, to care consultation and support groups, these are all services made readily available because of donations from the tournament and other events.”
    The Alzheimers Association can be reached toll-free at 800-272-3900 or online at

    Chris Stanley may be reached at (912) 489-9408.