i got it: Jack Butler is excited as he keeps his eye on the ball during the ceremonial first pitch of the OK Classic, a softball tournament in Forest Park that raises money for Opportunity Knocks, a day program for developmentally disabled adults. (DAVID PIERINI/Staff photographer)

This year’s OK Classic was the most successful in the seven-year history of the charity softball tournament. Over $82,000 was raised for Opportunity Knocks, an organization that provides activities and support for young people with developmental disabilities.

“I have never been this satisfied with the effort,” President Phil Carmody said, “There were no incidents, no surprises, except good ones.” The tournament was a mammoth undertaking that required the services of 85 volunteers. Carmody was also grateful for the tournament’s 48 sponsors.

Some backers, like the Original Ferrara Bakery, were new to the classic. Forest Park’s 12th Street Wings was another newcomer. The restaurant sent a representative dressed as a chicken. “We had a little more sponsorship this year,” Carmody said, “Weichert Realtors and the Law Office of Joe R. Milburn were huge sponsors.” The Classic’s biggest supporter was The Alyssa R. Pagano Memorial Foundation, which has given a large donation three years running.

Apart from generous sponsors, there was a large increase in on-line donations. Carmody counted 782 donors who contributed to the Classic. At a brief ceremony, he presented awards to the top two fund-raising teams, who took in a combined $17,000. Carmody recognized all of the Classic’s supporters during a short speech. “There’s more than 360 different jerseys and different teams here,” he said referring to the number of players, “But we’re all on a big team. Without everyone pitching in, we don’t exist.”

Speaking of pitching in, River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci and Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone simultaneously delivered ceremonial first pitches. Carmody was too diplomatic to say who had the better arm.

The marathon tournament kicked off at 7:30 a.m. and the championship game didn’t start until 9:00 p.m.

“It was a perfect day in terms of weather and turnout,” Carmody said, “We had the games exactly on time.” Co-ed teams like Yippekiyay, the Misfits and the Lollygaggers competed on two fields. The tournament champion was Sik Wit It.

In past years, players could pay to have an opposing player “jailed.” The bail paid would boost the tournament’s bottom line. A new wrinkle was added this year: players could pay to have an opponent wear a costume on the field. Rick Riley looked especially fetching, running the bases in a pink waitress outfit.

There were also fun and games for the younger set. The Kid Area included two bouncy houses, face painting and The Balloon Man handing out free ones. The multigenerational crowd was also entertained by four bands, a DJ and two college football games on big screens. They consumed almost $6,000 in food and beverages. Some of these vendors, like the Alpine Sandwich Shop were new to the Classic.

All in all, the tournament raised $10,000 more than the previous record. The money is much needed, as Opportunity Knocks derives 75% of its budget from fundraising events. Carmody is already looking ahead to their Chili Cook-Off which will be held in Forest Park in January 2014.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.