Softball tourney a home run for CASA

September 13, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT -- Shouts of "Go for it!" and "Good play!" rang out at the Pinesburg Softball Complex in Williamsport Sunday morning as softball players from all over the region supported each other -- and a cause -- at the 18th annual Run, Jane, Run women's softball tournament to benefit CASA, a local organization that helps victims of domestic violence and their families.

The two-day tournament typically raises $20,000 to $25,000 in entry fees, sponsorships, concessions and donations for CASA (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused), Executive Director Vicki A. Sadehvandi said.

This year's tournament included 24 teams, said Paula Keser, who organized the event with Jackie Kelley. Many teams came from organized softball leagues, but others were pickup teams formed specifically for the event, Keser said.

The teams are divided into two groups and play a double-elimination bracket, with the top 12 returning the second day, Keser said.


Prizes include tote bags and trophies, but it's the cause and the joy of playing ball that attracts teams year after year, she said.

The money raised at the tournament supplements state, federal, county and United Way funding to pay for a variety of programs and services for people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or rape, Sadehvandi said. Those services include emergency shelter for victims, counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, workshops and a 24-hour hot line.

The funds are critical to helping victims -- usually women -- rebuild their lives after breaking free from abusive relationships.

"You have people that leave home and they have nothing," Sadehvandi said.

CASA also provides counseling to help abusers change their behavior, she said.

"It's a serious problem here in Washington County, especially with the stressors that are on families today," she said.

As families deal with layoffs, tight budgets and other economic stressors, CASA has seen a large increase in the number of calls, as well as the lethality of domestic violence, with more people using weapons, Sadehvandi said.

Organizers said they are grateful to the event's many sponsors, including top donor Susquehanna Bank, as well as the Amateur Softball Association umpires who work at the event, and Gary Lumm, who arranged for the event to use the Pinesburg concession stands.

CASA director: "Help is available"

The Run, Jane, Run women's softball tournament held over the weekend served not only as a fundraiser for CASA (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused), but also as an early kickoff for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

CASA Executive Director Vicki A. Sadehvandi shared the following information about domestic violence and how CASA can help:

Q. What is the most important thing people should know about domestic violence?
A. "Help is available," Sadehvandi said. Victims of abuse and abusers who want help changing their behavior can call CASA at 301-739-4990 or its 24-hour hot line at 301-739-8975.

All services are confidential, she said.

Q. What are some of the fears victims have about seeking help?
A. "Trying to make that decision to leave a domestic violence situation, or even reaching out for help, takes a tremendous amount of strength," Sadehvandi said.

It's not unusual for the abuser to threaten to kill the victim or to make sure the victim loses her children if she seeks help, she said.

CASA provides free legal advice and can help victims seek protective orders against their abusers, she said.

Q. Is CASA just for women?
A. CASA helps entire families, including the victim, the abuser and their children, Sadehvandi said. Most victims are women, but there also are male victims, she said.

Q. How does CASA's Abuser Intervention Program work?
A. The program provides counseling to help abusers accept that they have a problem and develop new ways to deal with their emotions, such as taking a walk or calling a hot line, Sadehvandi said.

Q. Is there a link between growing up in a household with domestic violence and ending up in a similar situation as an adult?
A. About 90 percent of the people CASA helps grew up watching domestic violence in their own families, Sadehvandi said. Many say they don't want to end up like their parents, but cannot help being drawn to similar relationships, she said.

CASA has a children's therapist to help break the cycle for the children of the victims it helps, Sadehvandi said.

"We see these little kids, and if there's no intervention, they'll be the victims and abusers of tomorrow," she said.

Q. Do all victims who turn to CASA end up leaving their abusers?
A. CASA provides shelter and help to victims who want to leave their abusers, but it can also help with safety planning for those who are not ready, Sadehvandi said.

"It's whatever she wants to do," she said.

Most often, victims come to CASA wanting the organization to "fix" their abusers, but CASA can't always do that if the abuser hasn't decided he wants help, Sadehvandi said.

Leaving for good isn't easy for many victims. On average, it takes six to eight attempts for a victim to successfully leave an abusive situation, she said.

Winning teams

Winning teams from the Run, Jane, Run women's softball tournament:

American League champion: Tim's Tools of Scotland, Pa.

Second place: Jayne Keller, DMD/Peckie's of McConnellsburg, Pa.

National League champion: Forry's of Harrisburg, Pa.

Second place: Potomac Valley Brick of Silver Spring, Md.

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