WESTERLY — Gerry Auth had been searching for ways to keep his children and those on the various travel baseball and softball teams he coaches busy.
Auth, a three-sport standout athlete at Westerly High and a Division I baseball player at Hofstra, sees the coronavirus pandemic as a time for skill development.
"You don't get better playing games," he said. "The skill development can still be there."
But Auth, who is president of the Westerly Girls Softball League, also sees it as a time to make a difference in the community. Auth, with the help of his 12-year-old daughter, Lyla, put together a plan that resulted in a $6,000 contribution to The Westerly Hospital Foundation.
"We were having competitions at home among the teams that I coach, like who could take the most swings on a [baseball/softball] tee during a weekend," said Auth, a 1998 Westerly graduate. "Lyla and I wanted to find a way to give back while doing that."
The two decided to have players on the teams solicit pledges from family members and friends to benefit the foundation at the hospital. Auth reached out to the various contacts he has made in youth sports. The pair also relied on websites and social media to reach potential donors.
"My kids had to take 1,000 swings off the tee and make 500 baskets over the weekend to receive their pledges," Auth said.
Each athlete who raised at least $100 was entered into a raffle for a $250 gift certificate that Auth funded from the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce.
"We wanted a sports fundraiser, but we also wanted to help the local businesses," Lyla Auth said.
Auth's two sons, Grady, 10, and Gavin, 7, also participated.
"I wanted to teach my kids about giving back and the feeling you get when you give back," Auth said. "I wanted them to take a leadership role. My kids made the calls [to their sponsors] and that was a whole experience. We practiced making the calls all week."
The fundraiser took place the first weekend in May. Contributions were made directly to the foundation with the hashtag #westerlysportssupport. The $6,000 will be used for COVID-19 testing and to pay for daycare for hospital workers taking on extra shifts due to the pandemic.
"I learned communication skills and I learned that kids can make a difference," Lyla Auth said.
Lyla, who plays softball, volleyball and basketball, is a sixth-grader at Westerly Middle. She had hoped to try out for the school's softball team this spring but the pandemic arrived and canceled spring sports. She pitches and plays first base.
"I can't see my friends anymore and I'm stuck at home," she said. "We've been trying to go on walks and go different places every day. We also got a puppy."
Gerry Auth, who works as the director of Chariho Tech, said the venture was a success.
"I'm very proud of my daughter and the kids in town. They just did this and raised money for a great cause," he said. "It was nice to see that this could work. I had a good group of friends and coaches that were generous in their donations."
Auth said he can sympathize with high school athletes missing the spring season and those aspiring to play in college.
"For the kids on the fence [about playing in college], this is going to affect them the most. The Class of 2021, the juniors, are taking the biggest hit. This is their year to put up the numbers," he said.
Auth's travel team was expecting a big year.
"Last year was our first in 12U and we won more than we lost," he said. "In the fall, we were undefeated and this was going to be our second year in 12U. I miss the kids. The kids and coaches just want to play."