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Channing Frye's kickball tourney raises money for kids

Second year of event sports 28 teams, beefed-up sponsorship at Lents Park
by: RECESS TIME Kickball teams compete at Lents Park in the "We Kick of Kids" charity event sponsored by former Trail Blazer forward Channing Frye.

By the time 9 a.m. rolled around on Saturday morning, July 23 at Lents Park, the Jock-Jams were blaring, fully-grown men and women sporting pirate costumes and rainbow-colored Mohawks were arriving in great numbers, and former Trail Blazer Channing Frye's 'We Kick For Kids' charity event was getting into full swing.

Partnering with the Giving Back Fund and the Oregon Active Foundation, the Frye Family Foundation hosted its second annual kickball tournament featuring adult coed teams. Money from the event will help provide outdoor activities for local youth that have faced life-challenging conditions.

'I think all kids deserve a chance to be kids,' Frye says. 'Not all get a chance to go see other parks in their state, and I want to give them that opportunity and let them have a good time.'

Despite being traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2009, Frye still considers Portland home, and he remains active in the pursuit of improving the community.

'This is home base,' Frye says. 'My wife is from here. I live here during the offseason, and I love it. For me, it's about continually staying back and giving back to the community that I'm in.'

The Gallaghers emerged from a pool of 28 teams to win this year's championship after surviving the preliminary, round-robin style matchups and playoffs. The team was appropriately named on their costumes, which were designed to resemble the attire of famous prop comic, Leo Gallagher.

All teams in Frye's kickball event were encouraged to get creative with their uniforms.

Last year, 16 teams participated in the tournament. While that was considered a successful first attempt, a lack of sponsors and public involvement meant a less-than overwhelming amount of money was raised.

'Our margin of profit was pretty slim,' says Rich Chatman of the Oregon Active Foundation. 'We were able to get a couple trips out of it. One went horseback riding and the other snowboarding. This year, we had a lot of local involvement (in the tourney). A lot of local businesses and restaurants pitched in to help.'

This summer's event was more heavily sponsored, with Wilsonville Audi, Widmer Brothers, Buffalo Gap Saloon and PVS In-Store Graphics supporting the cause.

'I think we're going to do really well,' Chatman says, anticipating the final tally. 'Nobody from the charity takes a paycheck from it, so that money will go a long way. That's a lot of trips.'

The Oregon Active Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on providing outdoor opportunities for at-risk youth. The foundation uses fundraising events to send kids on trips around Oregon that will facilitate their personal development and sense of adventure.

Tournament participants and their supporting cast alone raised about $10,000 on the field Saturday, largely from a raffle, auction items and beer sales. In-game donations also helped rack up big bucks, likely pushing the amount raised to more than $25,000.

Teams could pay to use a mulligan or a pinch runner, and were also susceptible to fines for bunting or targeting an opponent's head while attempting to throw them out. Kickball veterans know that peg outs can be brutal.

The auction and raffle items included Suns apparel autographed by Frye and teammates, destination vacation packages, and restaurant gift certificates.

'The event was extremely successful not only in the number of dollars raised, but also in terms of the support and commitment made by the Portland community,' says Stephanie Heller, director of events and public relations for the Giving Back Fund.

Based out of Los Angeles, the Giving Back Fund interacts with charities across the nation, and acts as the administrative arm for the Frye Family Foundation. In addition, it is also an umbrella organization for roughly 25 more donor-advised funds, all of which are endorsed by celebrities and professional athletes. GBF handles the bulk of the management duties, financial planning, grant writing and fundraising.

Frye remains the unassuming star of the show. In addition to his own private financial contributions, the former Blazer forward also made it a point of emphasis to be a part of every facet of this event - from conference calls and idea collaborations right down to the design of the tournament T-shirt.

'I wanted to,' Frye says. 'It's not just a responsibility of a professional athlete, they have to want it. Something has to really hit their heart, and they have to want to put time and effort in. I love the community here in Portland, and I wanted to give back.'

He started the Channing Frye Foundation in 2007, his first year in Portland. His mission was to be a mentor for the community's youth and to demonstrate how to live an active and healthy lifestyle. The name was amended in 2010 to include his wife Lauren and infant son Hendrix.

'The Portland community has been so supportive of Channing,' says Heller, who also manages the foundation of Blazer forward Gerald Wallace. 'Even though he doesn't play here anymore, this is still his home. There's still such a strong support from the community for him. It's great.'