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Fundraiser features American Idol singer, Asheville Tourists announcer

The sheriff's office v. seniors softball game has landed American Idol contestant Meghan Woods to sing the national anthem and recruited Asheville Tourists announcer Tim Lolley to call the play by play.

 

The game is a fundraiser for Special Needs Sports, which operates a baseball and basketball league for children and adults. Started in 2011 as Special Needs Baseball, the organization has grown from 40 to 152 baseball players. Five years ago, organizer Donnie Jones added basketball and this year added martial arts.

"It's teaching the kids to focus, concentrate, some coordinatation, how to follow directions and given them good exercise and a little protection," Jones told Lightning media partner WTZQ radio on the Local Focus program Thursday. The youngest player is 2, the oldest if 72 or 73. "They get to be included," Jones said. "They belong to a league just like their siblings do. When they're out on the field, they're all kids."

The money raised will help fund "everything that we do," he said. "Everything that we do is at no cost — equipment, uniforms, trophies, snacks," an end of the year banquet and the annual Special Hearts Valentine's Dance. About half the participants are from Henderson County, the rest from Transylvania, Buncombe, Madison, Polk and Rutherford counties.

"It takes quite a bit because I kind of go overboard," Jones said. "I want the best I can get for them."

The senior softball game hopes the exposure will help the league recruit more players.

"We're putting a big push on this year to try to bring more members to our association," said Sonny Johnston, president of Senior Softball of WNC. "So far we've got about 15 extra people this year but we are trying to continue to grow it. We're hoping that some more people will realize that just because you're 50 or 60 years old, if you've played ball at some point in time, you're welcome to come out and join us. We've got players out there that have been professional baseball players to novice. Anybody that would have any interest we'd love to have them come out and give us a try. It's totally recreational. You can play at any level."

The Special Needs Baseball players will complete their games at 12:30 p.m. before the Sheriff's deputies v. Seniors game at 1 at field 4. Woods, who competed this season American Idol, will sing the national anthem, Lolley will call the play by play and Sheriff Lowell Griffin will throw out the first pitch, along with Special Needs Baseball star Abbie Fitzgerald, "one of my stars that I knew could throw a strike and show Lowell up pretty bad," Jones joked.

To donate to the game, click here. For more information on senior softball, visit the website. To sign up for Special Needs Sports or to donate click here or send a check to Special Needs Sports, 115 Acorn Drive, Hendersonville, N.C. 28972.