Westport teens' fundraiser hits one out of the park for scholarships
Published 5:16 pm, Friday, September 24, 2010
Five Staples High School students make it hard to complain about the troubled "youth of today."
Through the efforts of Danny and Jake Hirschberg, Erik Sawyer, Jordan Glick and Jesse Heussner, $18,000 was raised earlier this month for A Better Chance of Westport, a non-profit program that selects scholar students from beyond Westport's borders to attend Staples and live in the Westport community during the school year.
The Hirschberg family has rented out the Ballpark at Harbor Yard -- home of the Bridgeport Bluefish -- every year since 2000 for various charities, but this year the Hirschberg brothers and their friends were handed the fund-raising reigns.
They chose to have the proceeds benefit ABC because "they're our peers," said Danny. "We go to school with them and we're pretty good friends with them."
Suggested donations for baseball fans to take batting practice and play on a professional baseball diamond at the Labor Day event were $250 for adults and $100 for junior players. However, many individuals and businesses donated far more than the suggested amounts. A couple of families donated $1,000 to $2,000. The highest donation of all, though, came from the Preiser family. Whatever the teens raised, the Preisers promised to match it. The teens ended up raising a total $9,000, so the match doubled the fundraising total.
"I was a little surprised at how much they raised, but also pleased," said David Preiser, whose daughter graduated from Staples last year. "It was within my range, but toward the upper end.
Preiser told the Westport News he has admired the concept of ABC for many years.
"I think the idea of offering talented kids a chance to get on the ladder and a chance to succeed is noble and ennobling, a very worthwhile cause," he said.
Danny said that organizing the event was far more difficult than he thought it was going to be. In addition to lining up participants, the boys had to do everything from arranging for food to securing sponsors. That involved about two months of work. Using ABC's mailing list, with a publicity boost from a couple of news organizations, word about the event got spread.
On some nights, the boys were tempted to go out, but chose to resist temptation and focus on the task at hand to make sure the fundraiser would be a success.
Jordan said that Sept. 6 turned out to be a beautiful day for baseball.
"It was a great way to raise money for a cause that we care about," he said. Thirty-two people hit the field; batting practice spanned two-and-a-half hours, and the game took an hour-and-a-half. Six ABC students joined the festivities free of charge. Jordan and Danny, despite having been on the minor league field in years past, got to experience something new themselves -- a stint as baseball broadcasters. They were given the on-field microphone and provided their best color commentary to the roughly 80 people at the ballpark.
"We were really happy with the way everything turned out," said Jordan.
"They did it all, said Karen Hirschberg.
"This kind of support from within the Staples community and the Westport community as a whole is crucial," she said. "Our boys had a fantastic time playing baseball with their friends, and it was a terrific kick off to the new school year for the returning and new scholars."
The select ABC scholars who attend Staples are chosen from a pool of more than 2,000 candidates who demonstrate potential for academic excellence and leadership in life.
For more information on ABC of Westport, located on North Avenue, or to inquire about fundraising opportunities, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to http://www.abetterchanceofwestport.org.