Motorists traveling Tuttle Avenue in Sarasota smiled, honked and waved as The Oriole Bird led 250 supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County around Ed Smith Stadium in the Sept. 15 Walk for the Kids. The annual fundraiser garnered more than $67,000 to support the four clubs in Sarasota County.
Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, who chairs the board of the Roy McBean Club in Newtown, City of Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell and ABC 7 news anchor Hayley Wielgus led the walk with The Oriole Bird. Baltimore Orioles Minor League players and coaches also joined in the one-mile circuit around the ballpark.
Following the walk, participants flocked into Ed Smith Stadium for free, fun activities and refreshments.
"What a tremendous day for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and for the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota," said Laura Williams, Orioles Director of Florida Operations. "We are thrilled to be a partner with the clubs in helping to shape a positive future for youth throughout our community. Thanks to everyone who supported the clubs by pledging The Oriole Bird and other walkers."
The clubs -- located in Newtown, Central Sarasota, North Port and Venice -- provide after-school and summer programs for more than 5,500 children and youth ages 6 to 18.
"Fun activities, treats, an incredible stadium, interaction with the players and The Oriole Bird -- all of this while raising $67,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs," said Bill Sadlo, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. "We want to thank all the sponsors and walkers, but most of all the Orioles, for making this possible for the youth in our community!"
In addition to hosting the walk, the Orioles provided video messages by Orioles Major League players Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters supporting the campaign. The Oriole Bird "flew in" to campaign-related events, and donors were able to "pledge the Bird" and walk with The Oriole Bird Team.
Orioles players who participated in the walk were Zach Clark, Matt Hobgood, Austin Knight, Adrian Marin, Sean McAdams and Ashur Tolliver. Brian Graham, Orioles Coordinator of Minor League Instruction, and Ryan Minor, who managed the Orioles Delmarva Shorebirds Single A club last season, also attended.
"We were so pleased to be invited to participate," said Graham, as the coaches and players posed for photos and greeted walkers. "The players are fine young men who were happy to be part of such a worthwhile cause."
The fundraising campaign continues online through October at www.walkforthekids.com. To make a donation to support the clubs, follow the link to The Oriole Bird Team.