Ruthie Laroche – Messenger Sports

This Sunday the Fletcher and Fairfax communities will host the third annual softball tournament to raise money for Delaney Sweet-Werneke, a Fletcher teen who’s battling Osteosarcoma.

This year, Sweet-Werneke had a special request for tournament organizers Kathryn Towle and Samantha Gillilan.

“Delaney said she’d only take part in the event if she could share the proceeds with her friend, Alex,” said Towle. 

Sweet-Werneke and her friend Alex Blair have a common bond–they’ve both been fighting for their lives during a time when talks of prom dates and varsity games should be the biggest topics of conversation.

The two girls attended high school together at BFA Fairfax; Blair graduated this spring. 

Tournament organizers hope to raise $25,000 for the two families, and they hope folks will have a great time in the process.

“The softball teams are set, but we’d love to have people come out and support these families,” said Towle

Twenty-nine teams will take the fields at the Fletcher Elementary School and BFA Fairfax high school. Players alone will make up close to 300 people. 

Towle and Gillialin hope that at least another two hundred people will come out to eat, enjoy a DJ, take part in games and raffles, and bid on the silent auctions. 

Alex Blair and Delaney Sweet-Werneke stand together at the BFA Fairfax graduation in June 2019

Thanks to the generosity of sixty local businesses and many individual families, every expense associated with the event has been covered allowing all the funds to go to the families. 

“We’re so overwhelmed with the generosity of everyone and the support they’ve shown to these girls,” said Towle.

The event began three years ago when Kristine Irish organized the first softball tournament. That year, the Sweet-Werneke family found themselves in a very tough spot.

Delaney’s father, who spent his summers working in Alaska, remained in Vermont to be with his family. The loss of his income could have been devastating. 

Thanks to numerous fundraisers held for the family, including the softball tournament, the family could enjoy a little extra peace of mind. 

The tradition of love and support for the Blair and Sweet-Werneke families has only grown over the years.

“This community rallies to help when people need it,” said Towle. “I have not been in these family’s position, but I’m sure it’s very reassuring to know that someone has your back.” 

Towle noted that the needs of the families are very real. Everything from loss of work and living expenses to the costs associated with cancer treatments requires a steady flow of income. 

Currently, Delaney’s treatments have been taking place in Cleveland at the Cleveland Clinic, and the Blair family has been making regular trips to Burlington for Alex’s treatments. 

“It’s a lot for the families and we want them to be able to take the time to focus on their children,” said Towle, “to make sure they are safe and comfortable.” 

Sweet-Werneke and Blair were both athletes in high school. Blair, who graduated in 2018, was able to get back on the softball field for a few games this spring. 

“Delaney loved softball but she can’t play sports anymore,” explained Towle. “She enjoys watching her sister play and loves to go to the softball tournament every year. She’s a great big sister and an awesome friend.”

This year, Sweet-Werneke will be at the tournament taking in the laughter and friendly competition. Blair, who’s in the middle of treatment, will be unable to attend. Towle hopes for a good crowd to show support for both young ladies. 

“Alex is a part of the Cambridge Volunteer Fire Department,” said Towle. “She was willing to pursue a career that would put her in danger so she could help others. She is known for putting other people first.” 

The tournament is open to the public and will be hosted at BFA Fairfax from 7 am to 7 pm on Sunday, August 25th with a second location at the Fletcher Elementary School.