BEACON FALLS — One of Beacon Falls’ most unique fundraisers is ready to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
The Susie Foundation, a Beacon Falls-based nonprofit that supports Connecticut families battling ALS, will host the fifth annual Susie Classic kickball tournament Sept. 16 at the Beacon Falls Recreation Complex.
Ryan Matthews, a Beacon Falls native whose mother, Susie, died from ALS in 2011, is the founder and executive director of the organization. He said in some ways it’s hard to believe that the tournament is celebrating its fifth anniversary later this month, but he thinks the uniqueness of a fundraising kickball tournament has helped with its longevity.
“It’s a really great feeling,” Matthews said. “This is an event that more or less started because I wanted to do something different. Four years ago, I wanted to run The Susie Foundation in a different way than other nonprofits. A lot of nonprofits do similar things, but I wanted to find something different. This is something cool where someone can play 12 hours of kickball and know that their money is going directly to helping families fighting ALS.”
Matthews, who works for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, hopes one day that he can dedicate himself full-time to working with The Susie Foundation. But in the meantime, he spends his spare time planning the group’s work with his new wife, Liz, and his friends on the charity’s board of directors.
“We’re kind of a ragtag bunch still after five years,” Matthews said. “We do this in our spare time. We make calls on the way to and from work, squeezing in things at lunch, dedicating our weekends. But this work makes possible the grants that we give out to families who need help, who need ramps at their house, who need our support.”
This past May, The Susie Foundation provided $6,500 in funding to assist nine families fighting ALS across Connecticut. Those grants help with home modifications, medical costs and power wheelchairs.
Although The Susie Foundation has added more fundraising events over the last few years, including the Susie Fest at Two Roads Brewing Company, the Susie Classic remains the group’s largest fundraiser. The event raised more than $10,000 last year.
While all the players know that the tournament is a fundraiser, Matthews said it’s become much more than that to many of the participants.
“It’s a really (freaking) fun event,” Matthews said. “Teams come back year after year. It’s way more of a family reunion at this point than it is a fundraiser. It’s one of the coolest aspects of this tournament. People plan their calendars around this event.”
Team registration is currently ongoing at thesusiefoundation.org. Through Sept. 15, registration costs $35 per person — $40 on the day of the tournament — which includes a T-shirt, lunch and at least three games. Teams can play with between 7 and 11 players on the field at once, and all teams are guaranteed at least three games. Check-in begins at 9 a.m., and the first games are at 11:30 a.m.
The winners, as always, will receive what’s become a coveted trophy to the tournament’s participants — the golden kickball.