If you don’t have a vacation home to escape to this Labor Day Weekend, you’ll still have a final shot at some summer fun. The park district will likely be filled Saturday, Sept. 3 with smells from the grill, the excited screams of children and the thud of bats connecting with softballs. The 2nd Annual 14″ Softball Tournament to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project will begin at 9:30 a.m. and culminate with the championship game that night.

Chris Harris is once again spearheading the event. Last year, the tournament raised $3,000 for the nonprofit organization that cares for our wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This year, Harris is heartened by the $3,000 they’ve already received from local businesses.

Other participating businesses like The Brown Cow and Murphy’s Pub are kicking back a portion of their sales to the event to help ease the struggles of injured service men and women.

Harris became involved after being moved by a news report he watched on the Wounded Warrior Project. He learned of services the organization provides to severely-wounded veterans. “They might need prosthetic limbs, psychiatric counseling and medication,” Harris said, “All we’re asking is for people to come and enjoy softball, socialize and buy a few raffle tickets. The end result will be veterans getting the care they need.”

As an added incentive, there will be plenty of family fun, including a Jump Castle, carnival games and face-painting. Six bands will be playing on a stage at the park district – all are donating their performances. Woody’s Catering will be serving burgers, brats, dogs and nachos; and Murphy’s will be pouring the beer.

The festivities will include a presentation at 4 p.m. by the Forest Park Police Honor Guard, and a rendition of “God Bless America” by a bugler from Forest Park.  Members of the Forest Park chapters of the VFW and the American Legion will also be standing at attention. Then the games will begin.

The tournament field will feature coed teams playing 14′ “mushball.” Female fielders can wear mitts, while the men will uphold Forest Park’s no-gloves tradition. There are still openings for more teams and individual players who want to enter the free-agent pool. The deadline to register is Friday, Aug. 26. Checks can be sent to P.O. Box 641, Forest Park, IL, 60130; donations can also be paid via Pay Pal, at filibuster@mail.com.

Harris admitted that being a village commissioner has made it easier to get local participation. He’s received excellent cooperation from the park district and the community center, while a long list of local businesses like Currie Motors, Ferrara Pan and Duckfat have all made contributions. Even the umpires are donating their pay to help the veterans.

Many Forest Park families have been touched by war and seen loved ones come home physically or psychologically shattered. What better way to help them by indulging in a fundraising end-of-the-summer picnic? Come on out.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.