EDGEBROOK — Clouds hung in the sky and the grass was wet from heavy rainfall the day before, but hundreds of families traveled to Edgebrook Park on Sunday promising their kids a day of outdoor fun.
As soon as they got to the park, the weather changed; suddenly it was nothing but clear blue skies and sunshine.
"It was because of Danny," said Mary Duffy, chief operating officer of the nonprofit Danny Did Foundation, which organized its fifth annual kickball tournament in honor of Danny Stanton, who was 4 when he died after a seizure in his sleep in 2009.
This year's event drew 320 registrations from kids ranging from kindergartners to eighth-graders. They traveled from as far as Northwest Indiana, said Tom Stanton, Danny's uncle and the executive director of the foundation. That makes it the biggest turnout yet, he added.
Proceeds go to the foundation, which aims to prevent deaths caused by seizures. About 2.3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stanton said the tournament raised around $10,000 this year through a combination of registration fees, donations and sponsorships.
Kickball was an "obvious choice" when members of the foundation sat down to design events five years ago, Stanton said. Danny used to play in his front yard with his sister, Mary Grace, now 13, and his two brothers, Tommy, 6, and Johnny, 12.
And he played "really well" for a 4-year-old, Duffy said. He was good at baseball, too, Stanton remembered.
One of his cherished memories was during Danny's last summer, in 2009.
Danny was very attached to his older brother Johnny, and went to all of his baseball games in the the hopes that he could fill in, he said. That summer, Johnny's baseball team made it to the championship, and sure enough, a player was injured, so Danny got the chance to play.
"He got a hit, which was pretty incredible for a little 4-year-old running around with 7-year-olds," Stanton said. "I always cherish this moment."
Duffy, who is a family friend of the Stantons, said Danny could kick the ball "5 yards down" and he would always play with the older kids.
On Sunday, kids of all ages played kickball on teams according to age, donning neon T-shirts with a Danny Did Foundation logo. On the perimeter of the park, volunteers sold popcorn, pizza and snow cones, all of Danny's favorite foods, Duffy said.
In 2011, the field at the park was officially named Danny Stanton Field, Stanton said.
Danny's sister Mary Grace, who is going into eighth grade, said all of her friends from school come to every kid-friendly event put on by Danny Did Foundation.
The kickball tournament, among other events, brings the already tight-knit community together, said Steve Greifelt, a family friend whose son played in a soccer league with Danny.
His three kids, ages 6, 9 and 11, played kickball despite the muddy fields. The Greifelt family has been supporting the foundation since its inception.
"We miss [Danny]; we wish he were here with us," Greifelt said.
Bob Spallone, 46, whose kids also played kickball, echoed Greifelt's sentiment, adding that the Stantons have reached a lot of people in the community and beyond.
Like the Stanton family, Spallone's family received positive support from the Edgebrook community when it experienced tragedy, he said. Spallone's 12-year-old son, Luke, died in an accident 1½ years ago.
Luke's initials were on the neon-colored T-shirts as well.
"It's a very tight-knit community," said Spallone, explaining the foundation's growth.
"People's cousins come, or their friends come, and a lot of the volunteers may [be too old to play kickball] but they remember to come help."
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