There was plenty of fun to be had at the 5th Annual OK Classic Charity Softball Tournament, held at the Park District of Forest Park: cops-and-robbers games, a bags competition, live bands, food, beer, and more. But softball was, hands down, the draw: 20 teams competed in the daylong tournament aimed at raising funds for Opportunity Knocks, a River Forest nonprofit that provides services for persons with developmental disabilities.
“I started this event five years ago in honor of one of my friends, Kathleen Garrigan, who passed away,” said Mike Carmody, Opportunity Knocks executive director. “We called it the ‘KG Classic’ [then], in honor of her.”
“The first year we raised money for Special Olympics basketball in Oak Park and it kind of propelled us into Opportunity Knocks. I started the vision and my brother Phil finished the job. The proceeds from the event go towards Opportunity Knocks and … to a scholarship fund in honor of Kathleen.”
Starting at 7:30 a.m. and culminating with the championship game between 9 and 10 p.m., the event largely revolves around softball. Twenty teams were created in 25 minutes (online registration). In all 380 softball players partook in the games, and 125 volunteers and approximately 1,000-1,500 visitors and supporters came out.
“The history of how Opportunity Knocks started is about my brother, John,” Mike Carmody said. “He’s 24 and has Down Syndrome. After adults with developmental disabilities turn 22, they are out of the school system and funding is so limited. There are a lot of organizations out there and we just wanted to create another one. My whole family is involved, and that’s the strongest quality of Opportunity Knocks.”
The Carmody family’s commitment to Opportunity Knocks has touched the lives of many families in the time that the organization has been around.
“My son, Michael, goes to the ‘Knocks’ after-school programs,” said Barb Smith, a River Forest resident. “He really feels like the participants in Opportunity Knocks are his crowd.
Several participants in the Opportunity Knocks programs played in the tournament.
“I’m playing with Purple Crush – Mike Carmody’s team,” said Jarvis Hart, an adult with developmental disabilities who volunteers at Opportunity. “I’ve been coming to this tournament for five years. It’s a chance to have fun, drink some beer, play ball, and hopefully win the championship. Opportunity Knocks helps so many people and the Carmody family is my family.”
The consensus among players was: softball for a wonderful cause is a no-lose proposition.
“Our team raised the most amount of money,” said Matt James, a player on the team Scared Hitless. “I think it’s because OK is an organization that really matters to us. We all love softball, plus it’s for a great cause.”
Megah Krieger, who played on O’Sullivan’s Bulldogs on Saturday, flew in from Boston to participate in the tournament.
“My brother has played in the tournament a few years,” she said. “My cousin, Annie, recruited me this year. When I looked up Opportunity Knocks, I was very impressed with what they do.”
In addition to their annual softball tournament, Opportunity hosts a gala, chili cook-off and golf outing as major fundraising events. Opportunity Knocks President Phil Carmody said the organization raised about $50,000 at the this year’s OK Classic.
“We pour ourselves into these events,” Phil Carmody said. “They are essential to help our organization thrive and raise public awareness.”
On Saturday, the focus was good old-fashioned fun and tons of softball. Murphy’s Sik-Wit-It won the tournament championship for the second year in a row.
“This event is about people having fun and enjoying some good food and music. We offer some fun twists … but we don’t try to distract too much from the softball. We know people around here love softball and that’s the essence of the Opportunity Knocks Softball Classic.”