From the time it started 12 years ago, the Cranberry CUP softball tournament has evolved from a friendly neighborhood competition to a blowout event involving dozens of neighborhoods and other organizations.
“People schedule their vacations around it,” said CUP founder Cathy Cortazzo.
Plus, it’s for a good cause.
Cranberry CUP, which stands for Community Uniting People, raises money to support local families in need. This year’s beneficiary is the O’Donnell family of Cranberry. A social studies teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District and a father of four, Shawn O’Donnell was diagnosed with inoperable colon and liver cancer last May.
The softball tournament -- in which different neighborhoods compete against each other to win the coveted Cranberry CUP trophy -- is the nonprofit’s signature fundraiser.
Cortazzo said she expects 24 neighborhoods and around the same number of “open divisions” teams to compete in the tournament. Some of the open division teams include Rue 21, Northwood Realty and the borough of Seven Fields, she said.
“There are probably 600 to 700 players,” she said.
Things kick off at 6:30 p.m. Friday at theGolf Course. Besides a basket auction and food provided by , , and , the event will feature entertainment by popular Cranberry band Phase IV and a strolling magician.
Cortazzo said this also is where the O’Donnell family is introduced to the public. Tickets to the kickoff party are $25 at the door.
“It’s always the biggest party in Cranberry,” Cortazzo said.
The tournament’s opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the She said the O’Donnell family would arrive at the park via a Cranberry Township Fire Department truck. The inspirational families used to arrive on a STAT MedEvac helicopter, but Cortazzo said that stopped in 2004 due to tightened federal regulations on civilians riding on medical aircrafts.
She said the O’Donnell family would be greeted by thousands of cheering team members, friends, and family members. She said this encounter is what past beneficiary family members have told her they remember most about the event.
“The entire park is just filled with people,” she said. “It is so cool.”
Cortazzo said KDKA-TV’s chief meteorologist Jeff Verszyla would act as emcee of the ceremony. Speakers at the event include Cranberry Township Supervisor , Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, and members of past inspirational families.
“It’s always very touching, it’s hard to not get teary,” Cortazzo said.
The games begin there and last through Sunday. Cortazzo said the games would be played at and
The event raised $144,000 last year, and Cortazzo said she expects to raise at least that amount this weekend.
Cranberry CUP also accepts donations throughout the year. For more information or to make a donation, visit the Cranberry CUP website.