Less than two months after 21-year-old Eli Sullivan tragically died in a UTV accident, dozens of family and community friends came together at the Fairview Ball Park to celebrate his life and raise funds as a show support to his grieving family.
The inaugural Fly High Eli Co-ed Softball Benefit, organized by a host of Fairview volunteers, was an all-day fundraiser held January 16. Even with typical cold January temperatures, nothing could stop the community from showing up and showing out in support of the Sullivan family.
Jennifer Ward, who led the charge to organize the event, said, “I don’t know how to even begin to say thanks to each and every single person who volunteered, donated and participated in the benefit for the Sullivan family.”
With all agreeing that Eli had the best seat in the house, Ward said, “God was on our side when we woke up to fields in great condition in the middle of January. It was cold, but it was a beautiful day.”
The event included lots of competitive softball, a silent auction, concession sales and even a special balloon release at noon to celebrate Eli’s birthday. Attendees reported lots of laughs were shared amid the occasional tears that flowed in Eli’s memory.
Bo and Heather Sullivan, Eli’s parents, were overwhelmed by the large turnout. “We would like thank everyone in the community involved with the tournament. We couldn’t even begin to name everyone, but Jennifer Ward, Amber Mears, Kristin Welch, Amanda and Shannon Crutcher, and Jaime Dye Baker really went above and beyond setting up such a wonderful event in honor of our son, Eli Sullivan.”
The group of volunteers actually set the event up in a very short amount of time. “We couldn’t have dreamed of anything better,” said Bo.
Jennifer Ward agreed, noting it was definitely a group effort, “Each person played a huge role. Everyone was a piece of the puzzle that put it all together.” She also expressed thanks to what she called ‘My Team’ consisting of Amber Mears, Kristin Welch, Amanda Crutcher, Jaime Baker and Shannon Crutcher.
Ward also offered special thanks to the following: Cheryl Welch, who operated the concession stand along with Beth Pack, Angel Johnson McGowan and a host of “little helpers”; Travis Fox, who sang the National Anthem as part of the opening ceremony; Chris Reynolds, who provided the opening prayer; Kelly Hollars, Eddie Street and Justin Luke, who volunteering to umpire all the games; Chad Kues and Mathew Adkison for cooking and donating barbecue to sell; Stuart Johnson who donated to concession stand; and Jenia Tapp, who helped with the silent auction.
“The benefit was fun, but most of all it was rewarding. Our hearts have been so touched by this community,” said Ward. She added, “Bo, Heather and the girls ...YOU ARE SO LOVED!”
After receiving the proceeds from the event organizers last week, Bo and Heather shared, “This community has been a shoulder for us to lean on, and we can’t imagine living anywhere else. No amount of thank yous will ever be enough…but thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Continued prayers are appreciated.”