Support from near and far grows benefit tourneyJuly 24, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
DALE — There was a celebration in Spencer County this past Saturday. On the three baseball fields tucked behind the Lincoln Heritage Public Library were scores of people who had gathered for an all day event centered around Wiffle ball and community fellowship.
But there was another, more somber reason for the gathering. There was a young student at Heritage Hills High School named Josh Suhrheinrich. Those that knew him best describe him as a kind of social butterfly who knew no strangers amongst his school or community. But in 2011 his life was cut short by a car accident.
“When we lost Josh we were obviously very devastated,” said Jordan Morrison, one of Suhrheinrich’s classmates and a 2011 Heritage Hills graduate. Morrison and Kevin Spellmeyer, another former Patriot who was close with Suhrheinrich, wanted to do something to remember their friend and turn the loss into something good for the people who knew Josh.
“Kevin and I got together to think about ways to carry on his memory. We wanted to do something different,” said Morrison.
Suhrheinrich, Morrison, and Spellmeyer grew up playing Wiffle ball the backyard of Morrison’s house, so the two friends thought it would be an appropriate gesture to use the game that brought them together as a reason to bring the town of Dale together to memorialize Josh. They didn’t know exactly how to get things started initially, but they were able to lean on the support of not only their folks but also Theresa and Robert “Boo” Suhrheinrich, who were deeply moved by the efforts of the family friends.
“It’s a hard day, but it’s wonderful that everyone comes out,” Theresa said as this past Saturday marked the seventh year of the Wiffle ball tournament’s existence.
“It just keeps going and makes our hearts fill with pride,” added Robert. “Josh was a good kid.”
It started with teams that were composed of locals from the north side of Spencer County, but as word travelled so did others who wanted to join and be a part of the tourney and everything that it represented.
Spellmeyer said that the event, now in its seventh year, includes teams from Ferdinand, Huntingburg, Loogootee, and even Boonville.
“The first year we had 11 teams and it’s grown every year,” said Spellmeyer. “Now we’re at 27 teams and we’re thinking soon we might be breaking 30 plus.”
Morrison and Spellmeyer worked with the Dale Youth League and also pushed pavement to attract sponsors and donors for the memorial event, which is also used to award scholarships to Heritage Hills graduates who are going on to continue their education in college. This past Saturday they gave out about $4000 in scholarship funds to six former Patriots for their higher learning needs.
“It’s been an awesome community effort. We got help from people who didn’t even know Josh,” said Morrison. “They’re just wonderful people who really pitch in and help us do this every year.”
Thanks to the generous efforts of all that are involved the memorial event has grown into an all-day occasion. Teams come out and play Wiffle ball from sunup to sundown and scores more show up with lawn chairs and blankets to share in the fellowship atmosphere. The organizers take a break in the middle of the day to share a brief speech with those in attendance, as well as announce the winner of the Jeremy Bender Spirit Award, which is named after another classmate that passed away too soon.
“It exemplifies the spirit that Jeremy had,” said Morrison. “If you knew him, he wasn’t the most in shape or athletic person, but he gave 100 percent in everything that he did. That’s an award we’re really proud to give every year.”
The Suhrheinrich family is grateful for all the love and support which the Dale community shows when the tournament rolls around. Even though nothing will replace Josh, his parents are glad they are able to help others in their son’s name and assist those who have gone through a similar tragedy in their lives.
“As a parent you’re always going to feel the pain,” said Theresa. “But I think now if other parents have pain, I can help them. And anybody I can help with something we do, it’s just amazing.”
Because at the end of the day, after the last hotdog has been eaten and the final score has been tallied, it’s an event that is centered around flipping the script on a tragedy and turning the situation into something else that can help others move forward.
“It’s a great day for the community to get together,” said Morrison. “This has been a great way to remember Josh.”
Spellmeyer added “Just tuning a negative into a positive.”
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