Many of us remember the special times we had playing youth sports. Whether it was scoring your first goal, winning a team championship or the coach who encouraged you to push harder, sports have a way of creating defining moments in life. It is in that spirit that the Optimist Club of Marco Island (OCMI) will be hosting its inaugural “For the Love of the Game” winter soiree benefit. The event will be held on February 6th at the Marco Island Marriott’s Rookery at Marco Golf Club.
“We have a commitment to our children to give them the best sports opportunities we can,” commented Hilary Fortune, event chair and Optimist Club of Marco Island special events committee chair. “To deliver better programs, be able to offer a variety of team sports and include more kids, we need help from the community. Currently, we rely on registrations and seasonal sponsors which is barely enough to fund one sport program for a single season,” explained Fortune.
“For the Love of the Game,” sponsored by the Marco Island Marriot BeachResort, will feature former and current professional athletes for a star-studded evening. John Kruk, three-time MLB All-Star from the Philadelphia Phillies and current ESPN MLB analyst will be in attendance, as will Jon Dorenbos, Philadelphia Eagles special teams player and NFL pro-bowl selection in 2010 and 2015. “We are extremely honored to have these men join us for a special evening to celebrate youth sports. We are hoping that hosting these All-Star players will draw attention for the sports community on Marco Island. As the only comprehensive youth sports organization, we are the future of Marco Island sports. This is such a wonderful island with a strong sense of community and we’re trying to build that to include these youth sports programs,” added Bob Bruni, flag football director for Optimist.
Phil Vassar, two-time ACMA Songwriter of the Year and former New Male Vocalist Award winner also plans to attend the event. “We wanted our event to give more to our patrons than being just another fundraiser,” continued Fortune, “We are trying to make this a specialnight out for everyone. Life gets busy and time is precious. We want people to be excited to come and have fun while helping out the youth of Marco.” Planned is a VIP cocktail reception for those who want to spend some time with the celebrity guests, exciting putting contests during the cocktail hour, as well as a silent auction and dinner. According to Fortune, “It should be an amazing night to benefit the kids.”
The OCMI organization has been under new leadership for the past year, led by Meg Bonos and new board members Jennifer Reeves, Melissa Ryan, Lyndsi Koszo and Jerra Minning. Since being elected, the board has been focused on strengthening its sports development, as well as building a foundation for the future. “We have been revamping our programs to focus more on our athletes’ development and less on competitiveness and winning.” Meg Bonos explained, “Organizationally, we established goals to offer financial aid to those who can’t afford to play, offer scholarships to the student athletes who grew up in the Optimist Club, and establish a capital reserve and endowment fundfor the future needs of the organization. We can’t do this on registrations alone. We can’t deliver high quality instruction and open doors for new kids if we don’t have the necessary resources.”
The event will also feature local celebrities. WINK news reporter and anchor Nicole Pappageorge will emcee the affair, while Kirk McFee and Matt Spitko will provide musical entertainment. McFee, (whom many on Marco Island know from his appearances at community events) who will kick off the evening, also shows his support for Optimist as a soccer program sponsor through Kirk’s Coney Island. Creating a buzz throughout the musical world is Matt Spitko. Coming off the release of his independent LP, Spitko is a rising star on the music scene and will bring a great sound to continue the night.
Individual or group “For the Love of the Game” tickets can be purchased at www.loveofthegamemarco.com. The February 6th event begins at 5:30 PM and will be held at The Rookery at Marco Golf Club. Sponsorship opportunities are still available and can be found on the website. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.