MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Softball teams with names like ‘The Wrecking Crew’ and ‘Erika and Friends’ fill up the score card at the “Never Give Up” softball tournament in Middletown.
Over the past 27 years, the tournament has been a home run — raising more than $425,000 to fight cancer.
“I myself went through a tough battle in 1995 with cancer,” tournament co-founder Dominic Colavito said.
After coming through that battle, Colavito and his close friend Roy Haynes founded the tournament as a way to help others fighting cancer. They were inspired by former North Carolina State University basketball coaching legend Jim Valvano and his valiant battle against cancer.
“Jim Valvano was always one of my favorite coaches,” Colavito said. “We wanted to get involved. Golf was big, but we were softball players, so we started the “Never Give Up” softball tournament.”
On the field, many of the players are cancer survivors, like Steve Destefano.
“I went through 600 hours of chemo,” Destefano said. “I’ve been in remission for 18 months. The test just came back — 18 months clean.”
And, although these games are as competitive as you’ll find, the players know that winning on the field is not the ultimate prize.
‘We all know somebody whose been affected by cancer or people who have passed away from cancer, this brings awareness and hopefully finding a cure,” Corey Pittman of Erika and Friends said.
And — that “Never Give Up” theme is something Vincent Letizio lives by — both on and off the field.
While diagnosed with cancer more than a decade ago, he’s now two years cancer-free.
“The sport itself just gets you away from the cancer side of it,” Letizio said. “It’s just a great feeling to hang around with these guys.”