Charity Home Run Derby Hits a Home Run
Event organized by two local fifth graders to help family of nine-year-old injured in Halloween hayride accident.By Terry Boudreau and Linda Sadlouskos
It couldn't have been a warmer welcome to Basking Ridge.
The family of Jacob George, a nine-year-old who was severely injured when he fell from a Halloween hayride two years ago, got a boost in both funding and morale on Sunday when the little boy was the beneficiary of a Home Run Derby last weekend.
The Home Run Derby for Jacob was the idea of 10-year-old James Catapano and his best friend, Danny Gattoni, both fifth graders at the township's Cedar Hill School. Counting some previous donations, the boys and Sunday's derby have raised $7,500 to help Jacob's family, new residents who recently moved in from neighboring Long Hill Township.
The Home Run Derby attracted almost 90 participants in grades 4 to 6, and
at least 250 people overall at the event held Sunday afternoon at the Basking Ridge Little League off Valley Road, said John Catapano, James' father. All of the participating ballplayers received prizes, sports memorabilia and even got to meet Oakland A's hitter and outfielder Jack Cust, he said. Cust, a New Jersey resident, stopped by to greet children and make a generous donation, John Catapano said.
"It was very spiritual," the older Catapano said of the afternoon. About 100 children lined up to touch and shake the hand of Jacob, whose parents brought him in his wheelchair for about an hour or so, he said."It was so heartening. There's a tremendous burden on us," said Geor ge Avirappattu, Jacob's father. The family just moved into the township at the end of September, he said
Friends reaching out to help a new friend: Little Leaguers Justin Pavlik, James Catapano and Matthew Page before Sunday afternoon's Home Run Derby, organized on Sunday at the Basking Ridge Little League complex to raise funds for Jacob George, a 9-year-old boy who recently moved into the township. Two years ago, Jacob was severely injured and incapacitated when he fell off a Halloween hayride. James came up with the idea after learning about Jacob at O'Bagel in Dewey Meadow Village. He helped bring together the event by working with his best friend, Danny Gattoni, another fifth grader at the township's Cedar Hill Elementary School. The derby drew about 90 participants in grades 4 to 6, said John Catapano, James' father. Along with other donations, the derby has raised about $7,500 to assist Jacob's family in building a shower that can accommodate a wheelchair or to purchase some other therapeutic equipment for the boy, Catapano said. Credit Terry Boudreau