At promptly 6:30 AM Wednesday morning, Chandler Dennard was out at the Georgia Southern softball complex nervously pacing around the grounds.
Much earlier that morning Darron Burnette was still laying wide awake in his bed, gritting his teeth at the possibility of the rain soaked day ahead of him. As of 10:00 PM Tuesday evening, Bulloch County was projected to have a 90 percent chance of rain throughout the day.
The reason these two men were so anxious over some wet weather is because their big fundraiser — the Miriam Burnette Memorial Striking Out Alzheimer’s Tournament — was in jeopardy of being rained out completely in its second day. Eight of Tuesday’s games had been rained out, which by itself was a relief compared to what was projected that day.
But 21 softball games between 18 teams from as far as Conyers were set to play Wednesday to along with a check presentation to the Coastal Georgia Alzheimer’s Association were in jeopardy. Safe to say, the two men had plenty to worry about heading into Wednesday morning.
“I was 100 percent certain we were not going to be able to play Wednesday,” Dennard said. “I was already thinking about what we were going to have to move around.”
Whether it be by the grace of God or purely a well-timed coincidence, the predicted rain never came. Maybe a light sprinkle or two, but nothing ever significant enough to keep softball players off the diamond. But more importantly, Burnette, his family and Dennard got to stand on the mound and present a check for $25,105 to Angel Carter and the Coastal Georgia Alzheimer’s Association.
Once again, the Striking Out Alzheimer’s Tournament broke it’s own record for the highest collection on record. It topped last year’s total by $3,155 and continues to be a giant cash grab for the Coastal Georgia Association.
“Especially for the area it’s one of the top fundraisers we have,” said Angel Carter, director of the Coastal Georgia Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s been amazing to watch Darron and Chandler take on all this work by themselves. It makes a huge difference for us.”
Between the Rocking Out Alzheimer’s and the Striking Out Alzheimer’s events — both of which were started by Dennard and Burnette six years ago after Burnette’s mother succumbed to the disease — $250,000 have been officially raised for awareness and a cure for the puzzling disease which has a crippling effect on America’s elderly population.
The whole moment was surreal for Burnette, who seemed misty-eyed when he came off the mound at Eagle Field. In his own words, he never thought in his wildest dreams a softball tournament would grow into what the Striking Out Tournament has become today.
“I thought we might do it once or twice,” Burnette said. “I never thought it would become a recurring thing.”
People who come by to attend or volunteer the event don’t only get to support a much-needed cause, but they get to watch some quality high school softball before the official season even gets underway. Teams from all over the area from both the GHSA and GISA get to scrimmage one another to get a real preseason test. This can go a long way to breaking in new freshman, getting adjusted to live pitching and tinkering with new lineups before the real action starts the second week of August.
“It’s great we get to have this tournament so close to us,” said SEB head softball coach Aimee Civalier. “We get to really work out some kinks here that we otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to.”
SEB, Bulloch Academy and Statesboro all showed up to play, while other local clubs like Metter, Jenkins County, Pinewood and ECI were in attendance.The Striking Out event has become a giant community gathering over its six years of existence and that’s what’s impressed Carter the most in her three years of involvement with the event.
“I find it fascinating how the event finds a way to engage teams from all around this area,” Carter said. “It’s not just a Statesboro thing, it’s become much bigger than that.”
For those who want to keep supporting the cause, the Rocking Out Alzheimer’s concert date has been moved from its regular date at the end of January to March 3.