Softball teams take a swing at raising funds for cancer

The Tribune Chronicle

June 28, 2002

Justin Post

Special to the Tribune Chronicle

WARREN – Arnold Barzack of the District 1 Steelworkers Relay for Life team calls them "yuppies." After all, they are wealthy attorneys.

But the Cleveland-based Kelley & Ferraro Law Office attorneys weathered torrential downpours on May 11 to play softball against two local Relay for Life teams working to generate money for the American Cancer Society.

In exchange for the ballgames, the law firm donated money to the groups, which are mostly steel workers.

The attorneys often represent retired steel construction workers in wrongful death and personal injury suits stemming from asbestos exposure.

The teams gave the money to the American Cancer Society during a Relay for Life held at Warren G. Harding High School on May 18.

"Rather than putting a check in the mail, we all got together to have some fun," said District 1 staff representative and retired WCI employee Dennis Brubaker, adding that the District 1 team vied against the attorneys in 2000 at a similar fundraiser. "The guys really looked forward to it; it's a fun way to gather up some money."

Steelworkers and attorneys mingled among smoking grills and coolers as a handful of youngsters rocked on a nearby swing set. In typical northeast Ohio fashion, however, rain eventually poured from the ominous clouds hanging over the group of approximately 100 people. But the games continued.

"Cleveland was chilly, but it wasn't going to rain," attorney Corey Frost said under the shelter of a portly tree. "But it's good for us to come out, play ball and have a hamburger. It's more than just going to court."

Frost pointed out the plumes of smoke rising from the industrial area across the street. "Too many people have developed cancer from working in heavy industry," he said. "Years ago, that was the big employer in this neck of the woods, so just about everybody has someone they know or family that was adversely affected by cancer."

The law firm represents about 20,000 people throughout the country. At the same time, the majority of those clients are from northeast Ohio.

"I would say a solid one-third come from Trumbull, Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties, with a large chunk from this area," Frost said." Tons of asbestos was used here. Everyone thought it was the miracle insulator."

Scanning the crowd from an elevated scorekeeper's booth, Brubaker couldn't think of anyone who hadn't been touched by cancer.

"I haven't met anyone who could say they didn't have a relative or friend who didn't pass away with cancer."

Rod Sparks' family was jolted by the disease several months ago, as cancer claimed the life of his father-in-law.

I'm playing today because I would like them to find a cure for cancer," he said. "This game means a lot to me."

The attorneys plans to return in August for another fundraiser ballgame with the two Relay for Life teams, one of which is composed of WCI corporate officials and members of Steelworkers Union Local1375. That team defeated the attorneys 19-6 on May 11.

But the attorneys came back for a 15-13 victory against the District 1 team in a second game that didn't end until after 9 p.m.

"We are going to come back in August and get beat again," attorney John M. Murphy said, shortly after losing the first game. "Our whole focus is to help people with cancer, and this is a good way to promote cancer prevention."