Ayla sang the anthem at this yesterday. Sounds like it was a blast and it was for a good cause.
Remembering boy who \'loved to play\'
BY JULIET PENNINGTON FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE
Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:56 AM EDT
NORTH ATTLEBORO - It has been nearly one year since the untimely death of 17-year-old Alex Blase and on Saturday, friends, family and members of the community gathered at Mason Field for a fundraiser in his memory.
"I think he\'d be glad that everybody came out," said longtime friend Jesse Kummer, 16, a junior at North Attleboro High School. "I know he\'d do the same for any one of us."
More than 400 people, representing 83 teams, participated in the first annual Alex Blase Memorial Wiffle Ball Tournament. Proceeds will go toward the Alex Blase Scholarship Foundation, which was founded by his parents, James and Nancy.Former "American Idol" contestant and Boston College basketball standout Ayla Brown of Wrentham kicked off the day\'s events by singing the national anthem, after which she signed autographs and posed for pictures with local and area fans.
"He played basketball, so this really hit close to home," said Brown, 20. "He loved to play sports, so seeing all of his friends participating in this tournament in his memory is really moving." Last May, Blase was playing basketball with friends at the Hockomock Area YMCA in North Attleboro when he was stricken with a brain hemorrhage. He died four days later. The family learned that Alex had a pre-existing and undetected condition called arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain.
Just days before the hemorrhage, Blase had gone to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get a new learner\'s permit, since the one he had had gotten wet. While getting the new document, he signed up to be an organ donor.
"We\'ve talked to the people at the donor bank, and his organs have helped 24 families," said James Blase. "He liked to help people, so that would have made him very happy."
Blase said he has been "constantly amazed by how incredible" the community has been. "Everybody has been so supportive and so generous. It means a lot to us."
Dave Lang, 15, captain of Existo A Vir (Latin for "be a hero"), one of the teams participating in Saturday\'s tournament, said he was "happy to be here to have some fun and to support Alex\'s cause."
His teammate, Jordan Picini, 15, said that even though it was a sad situation that brought everyone together, he was pleased to be able to do his part to help raise money for the scholarship foundation.
Kyle Kummer, 19, a freshman at Roger Williams University, left school during finals week to come home and participate in Saturday\'s event.
"It was important for me to be here. I was friends with Alex since the second grade and used to hang out with him every day," said Kummer, captain of the team Prestige Worldwide - a reference to the Will Ferrell movie, "Step Brothers". "He would have been really happy to see how many people came out for him and how many people cared about him."
Alex\'s twin brother, Jimmy, a senior at Tri-County Regional Vocational-Technical High School, said his brother would have been "awestruck" by the number of people who turned out at Saturday\'s fundraiser.
Jimmy, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch with his younger brother, Jack, said he is doing "pretty well," but misses his brother terribly. "I do the best I can. I have my days ," he said. "The hardest part is waking up in the morning and having only one person - me - in the room. We shared a room our whole lives and I\'m used to waking him up after my shower so he can take his."
Jimmy Blase said he was impressed by the "creative" names of some of the teams ("Where My Pitches At" was his favorite), and the great lengths participants went to to dress the part, ranging from wearing Viking helmets to 1960s garb.
North Attleboro resident Kristin Gutauskas, 41, was captain of The Muffin Tops, an ode to those whose pants seem to shrink over time, thus creating a muffin top-like stomach roll.
"I think it\'s important that everyone is here to support this family that has suffered a loss that none of us could ever imagine," said the mother of three. "We\'re here to celebrate his life, and I know that he\'ll never be forgotten."
A gathering at the North Attleboro Elks Pavilion and Lodge was scheduled for Saturday night, following the tournament. In addition to food, raffle items and live entertainment, the names of the three recipients of the first Alex Blase Scholarship were scheduled to be announced.
Receiving the scholarships are Alex\'s brother, Jimmy Blase, fellow Tri-County senior Kyle Crombie, and Emily Zimmer, a senior at North Attleboro High School.
For more information about the foundation, visit www.AlexBlase.com