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July 06. 2013 1:13AM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Making an impact in the lives of many


 

I know a lot of people who are actively involved in philanthropic activities and are very passionate about the various causes they support. Most people have a desire to volunteer, donate money and give back to others.

I have a lot of respect for people who dedicate their valuable time to activities that do not directly benefit them. It's something very special and unique, and it's also something that people are rarely recognized for.

Of all the generous people I know, there are a few that stand out among everyone. And this week, I'd like to share their story. These individuals are special for many reasons, but most importantly they are special because of their selfless dedication to an organization that provides so much to so many children.

South Junior Deb is an all-girls softball league on Gay Street in Manchester. It's a recreational softball league with instructional, farm, minor and major divisions. The regular season runs from May through July and offers girls ages 5 through 18 the opportunity to engage in a competitive, fun environment and learn softball. My oldest daughter played in the league for seven years, and my youngest daughter just finished her third year.

While the league has been around for more than 40 years, what you don't notice is what it takes to actually run the league and make things happen on a day-to-day basis. Anyone that has been involved in sports for their kids knows that it takes a lot of work to run an effective league. From fundraising to maintaining the fields to the logistics, the list is long. And nothing happens without dedicated people behind the scenes.Dawn Melanson has served as the league president for the last five years. She is without a doubt, the glue that holds the league together. She has done amazing things not only for the league, but for the hundreds of girls and their families. And the most amazing thing about Dawn's story is the fact that she has no children in the league. She does this work because she is passionate about the girls who play and wants to provide an experience the kids will remember forever. And that is exactly what she has done and continues to do.Another interesting aspect of the league is that Dawn's boyfriend, Lee Fottler, is also actively involved and has been for many years. Lee serves as the first vice president and is also responsible for building and grounds maintenance. Lee is at the field working harder than anyone. On any given day, you'll find Lee cutting the grass, working in the concession stand, painting the fences or doing much needed repairs to the building and equipment. He takes his responsibility very seriously and is meticulous with the quality of work he does.

And of course Dawn and Lee both have real full-time jobs and normal lives. But they spend more time at the fields or conducting softball-related business than they do anything else. And all of the work they do is strictly volunteer. They don't get paid. They don't get special treatment. They don't get anything special. They just serve. They serve the players and provide an environment for girls to learn critical life lessons like team work, working hard, overcoming adversity and defeat and many other skills they will keep forever.

The amazing work Dawn and Lee do has impacted the lives of so many children. When Dawn took over, the player count had been decreasing steadily over the years. There were 130 players in the league when Dawn became president, and today, that number has climbed to 200. Along with the success they have had, they have also provided opportunities for businesses to advertise and get their name in front of the hundreds of people who frequent the field on any given day.

Businesses in the community have been very generous to the league, and that is something else that can't be overlooked. Companies like Best Buy, Chalifours and Godzyk Realty have helped support the league for many years. A full list of sponsors and additional information about South Junior Deb can be found at www.southjrdeb.com.

On behalf of the players and families who have had the opportunity to experience the benefits of playing at South Junior Deb, we thank Dawn, Lee and the countless other volunteers for all that you do. Know that your dedication to the children and the selfless work you quietly do every day does not go unnoticed.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.


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