One thing Ryan Brown quickly learned when he was first inspired to organize a celebrity softball game in Cody – there is incredible support for cancer fundraisers.
“It affects everyone,” he said. “Cancer’s a huge cause and people support it.”
From entrepreneurs, actors and athletes to auctioneers and average Joes – for the right cause – the most famous of people in the U.S. were quick to say, “Yes,” when Brown asked if they would play a softball ballgame on a small-town ballfield that sits below a city electrical transformer.
Roughly 35 people had committed to coaching or playing a nine-inning softball fundraiser at the Cody Legion Baseball Field on June 13. The event was recently postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Setting up the roster exceeded expectations, especially since most people he contacted didn’t know Brown, including acclaimed actor Harrison Ford, also a Jackson rancher, and part-time Cody resident Kanye West, one of the most critically acclaimed musicians of the 21st century.
“It went really well with the amount of celebrities who said they were going to do it,” Brown said. “It went better than I thought for the first year.”
Made up of retired and current professional athletes and coaches, college athletes, movie directors, a comedian and country singer and reality TV personalities, the list was truly all-star quality.
Park County celebrities such as bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and across Hannah Barefoot responded affirmatively. Super Bowl winner Spencer Larson, retired Major League Baseball relief pitcher John Rocker and Ford’s longtime stuntman Terry Leonard agreed as well.
The Celebrities Against Cancer Charity Softball Game could have been the largest single gathering of celebrities in Cody – ever – and may still happen. But it will be another year before the event takes place.
With continued uncertainty amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Brown, backed by the fundraiser committee, postponed the game until June 18-19, 2021.
“I’m really bummed it’s come to this,” Brown said on Monday. “We have to think of the safety of everyone first, and take an extra year to make it even better for next year.”
The hope is to replicate the participants list as much as possible. A few celebrities he’s talked to so far have committed for next year, Brown said.
Brown is the Cody Rec Center’s athletics coordinator and host of a radio talk show where he covers all kinds of professional, college and local sports. So, when he decided to give back to the community he’s called home for 29 years, choosing a sports event was a natural pick.
Brown’s goal had been – and still is – to raise $50,000 through sponsorships and ticket sales for cancer treatment and research. He believes it’s the cause that enticed famous people from across the country to converge on a town of not quite 10,000 to play ball.
“Cancer is close to my heart,” Brown said. “I lost my father to cancer.”
Tickets, costing $10-$150 apiece online, were nearly sold out by Monday – purchased by people from Montana and Colorado, and all over Wyoming. Fewer than 140 of the $10 tickets remained. Tickets will be refunded through the website.
The event was sure to bring dollars to the community. This year celebrities had planned to spend 2-3 days in the area. Many would have flown to Cody on private planes.
When the game does take place, plans are to donate half the proceeds to the Big Horn Basin Regional Cancer Center in Cody, which provides medical services to cancer patients, and the other half to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children’s catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers.
Much planning was already in place.
The 12-month delay offers more time to plan for Brown with the help of a 14-member committee, local volunteer organizations such as Next Generation and the Cody Fire Department, emergency services, city police and public works.
The two-day event was to begin with a catered celebrity Dinner on the Diamond on a Friday evening with comedians to entertain guests and inspiring talks by cancer survivors.
From noon-9:30 p.m. on game day, activities included a home run derby, beer sales, a slow pitch softball game and concert by celebrity singer-songwriter Bobby Chitwood.
The work for Brown now lies in rebuilding the roster by finding out which celebrities are available in 2021 and who else may say, “Yes,” to walking onto the Milward Simpson Legion Baseball Field to have fun, make friends and fight a mighty foe – Cancer.