WEST PITTSTON — Cloudy skies, damp weather and rain could not stop over 215 players from participating in the inaugural Little Eric’s Foundation (LEF) Wiffle Ball Tournament at the West Pittston Little League field on Sunday, May 22.
Players took the field at 9 a.m. and the tournament continued until winners were declared in each of the brackets, which included 7 to 9, 10 to 12, 15 to 16, and 18 and up.
LEF is named after Eric Speicher Jr., a Wyoming Area student who died in December 2013 from a brain tumor at age 14. The foundation was created in Eric’s name in hopes of bringing awareness to pediatric cancer.
“Eric loved baseball, he loved Wiffle ball and he loved anything with a bat and a ball, and we wanted to bring something that the kids would enjoy doing and Wiffle ball seemed like a fun thing to do,” said Jessica Speicher, Eric’s mother. “I’m just glad everyone came out considering the rain.”
According to Speicher, all the money will go pediatric cancer research and patients. In March, LEF gave $25,750 to Dr. Ratna Behal, a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where Eric was treated. Recently two local families were the benefactors of funds from LEF.
Rob Belza, of Exeter, attended the event with his children, Mario and Nina.
“It’s just great because all kids play Wiffle ball in their backyards and it’s a great cause like this even with it raining,” Belza said. “The kids are having so much fun and it just brings everyone out.”
Former Wyoming Area softball pitcher Nicole Cumbo, a student-athlete at Wilkes University studying biology, participated in the tournament.
“I’m really happy because this is a great cause and the LEF is really great,” Cumbo said. “They were really close with the doctors working with Eric and I hope I can be that kind of physician.”
Cumbo, who knew Eric personally, hopes to work with children in her medical career.
“Eric would have loved this,” said Tyler Bonita, Eric’s first cousin. “When Eric played Little League, he participated in a Wiffle ball tournament and his team won.”
Bonita, who is three years older than Eric, said the two were like brother and sister. “The turnout is amazing and everyone seems like they are having a great day despite the weather,” she said.
The food stand was open, raffles were sold, and the pavilion was filled with players’ parents and Eric’s family and friends.
“I’m happy for the crowd and I’m glad everyone still supports our foundation,” Speicher said. “It’s sad and unfortunately you hear more and more cancer cases so we are trying to help those that need help.”