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Papa Hops 16" Softball Tournament Returns Friday to Kennedy Park

 The Papa Hops 16
The Papa Hops 16" Softball Tournament in Kennedy Park raises money to help cancer patients and others who have lost their battle with the disease.
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Liam Hopkins

MORGAN PARK — Free skin cancer screenings will be available from 5-8 p.m. July 15 as part of the third annual Papa Hops 16" Softball Tournament in Kennedy Park.

It might seem like an odd pairing if not for the fact that the 28-team softball tournament in Morgan Park pays tribute to Tom "Papa Hops" Hopkins, who died in 2014 as a result of melanoma.

"It's the community and the people around us that make this so special," said Liam Hopkins, 23, of Morgan Park.

Liam Hopkins coordinates the tournament with his brothers, Tommy, 27, and Martin, 25. They are part of a 15-member committee that puts together the event along with their only sister, Annie, 21.

The first two rounds of the elimination tournament are split between Kennedy Park at 11320 S. Western Ave. and Mount Greenwood Park at 3721 W 111th St. The final eight teams all play at Kennedy Park, where Tom Hopkins spent many evenings watching his children play sports, Liam Hopkins said.

 The third annual Papa Hops 16
The third annual Papa Hops 16" Softball Tournament returns in Kennedy Park Friday. Games are also played at Mount Greenwood Park.
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Liam Hopkins

Tom Hopkins, 59, also ran a Sunday softball league at Kennedy Park and was the owner of J.P. Hopkins Sewer and Water Contractors. Tommy and Liam Hopkins work for the suburban Crestwood-based company founded by their grandfather. Their jobs are spread across the city, Liam Hopkins said.

Tom Hopkin's wife, Margie, works as the registrar at St. Rita High School in Ashburn. Thus, the school's Fathers' Club will make burgers and hot dogs for the tournament. The tournament will also have various raffles throughout the evening and is expected to draw nearly 1,000 people.

As a testament to Tom Hopkins, a portion of the proceeds from the inaugural tournament paid for a scoreboard that's used by youth and adult baseball and softball teams in Kennedy Park. The scoreboard is also used by St. Cajetan Elementary School's football team.

It costs $375 for teams to participate in the tournament. The winner receives $2,000, and the second-place finisher receives $1,000. That said, all of the winning teams have returned the prize money to charity thus far, Liam Hopkins said.

The first year, the men's tournament included 18 teams and raised $10,000. Last year, it sold out with 28 teams and raised $25,000. This year, the event has again sold out, and Liam Hopkins hopes to make $50,000 for the charity.

He said the funds from last year as well as future cash is slated for neighborhood families battling cancer and others have lost a loved one to the disease.

"We went through what they are going through," Liam Hopkins said. "We just want to pay it forward."

The Hopkins group also annually participates in the March4Meg 5K run and walk in suburban Evergreen Park. That charity also works to raise awareness about melanoma and is behind the skin cancer screenings at the tournament.

Liam Hopkins said before his father died, he proposed the idea of a charity softball tournament in his honor. His dad dismissed the idea, but his youngest son said he's glad that the family and friends went ahead with it anyway.

"He didn't want to be the hero," he said.

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