As a member of Leeds High School’s first team to win a state championship, Alex Peterson had been looking for a way to bring that team together. After all, it had been four years since the tight-knit 2007 Lady Green Wave took the softball championship in dramatic fashion at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. The perfect opportunity presented itself following the storms that struck the state on April 27.
Peterson, who graduated from LHS that same year, said she had considered a variety of options for some type of team reunion prior to April. By the end of that month, the perfect opportunity presented itself.
On April 27, residents across the state, including the tri-county area, were put in survival mode as a string of the most deadly tornadoes ever ripped across the landscape, taking with it possessions, homes and lives. Peterson said after seeing and hearing the stories from the survivors of the storms that the idea came for the ’07 Lady Green Wave to lend a helping hand.
“I was hearing from family members in Tuscaloosa about some of the students there were having to live in their cars and their only meals would come from the university. The more I heard about it, the more I knew we had to do something to help. I figured even if we didn’t raise a lot of money, it could still help somebody,” she said.
A resident of Leeds, Alex witnessed some of the damage caused here and in the Moody area. She said she was one of the fortunate ones who simply “had a few limbs down and went without power for a day.” But, she still knows very well the devastation a tornado can bring to a family. Three years ago, a tornado targeted her next-door neighbor’s house on Whitmire Avenue in Leeds, leaving it in rubble.
“I remember going out the front door and from there it appeared everything was fine. Then, we went out the back door and our neighbor’s house was gone. It really makes you realize how fortunate you are. We had some roof damage, but they had lost their entire home. After that, anytime it started to rain it would freak me out. It takes a while to get over something like that,” Peterson said.
After the storms of April 27, Peterson, now 23, and having completed four years of undergraduate studies at UAB, began drawing up the plans to host a softball clinic for young girls with the proceeds going to benefit agencies assisting with the tornado relief efforts. The event was advertised locally and through the support of others in the area. She admits that registering the youngsters started out slow, but as the event approached the list of participants started to get longer.
“It turned out that we had more than we ever expected. People really started to respond in the final week leading up to the camp,” she said.
In all the camp brought together 30 kids ranging in age from 4 to 14 and raised $600, which was split between the United Way and Recover Tuscaloosa.
“A lot of people told us that they loved the reason we were doing it,” Peterson said. “Some people even donated extra money beyond the price of registration.”
It also became a special time for the ’07 Lady Green Wave, which had a chance to hit the field again — together again for a specific goal. Peterson said the members were quick to say “Yes” when asked if it was a good idea. Most of the team was there with only a few being unable to attend.
Also attending was UAB Softball Coach Marla Townsend, who Peterson said “quickly agreed” to being a part in the camp.
Local businesses also got on board with sponsorships from Covenant Bank and Green Wave Auto. Chick-Fil-A provided lunch for the attendees and MCM Sports provided T-shirts. There was also one anonymous contributor. Other businesses donated items for door prizes, which turned out to be enough that every participant left with something, according to Peterson.
“Everybody seemed to get excited about helping and we certainly appreciated the support we received,” she said.
Peterson said she would like to make the camp an annual event, raising money for different charities each year. In the end, she said the clinic teaches the youngsters about things much bigger than hitting and fielding – things she learned from her grandfather, Harry “The Hat” Walker, a professional baseball legend who actually began the baseball program at UAB.
“My grandfather was big on helping people when they need things more than you do,” she said. “I like the idea that while we are teaching these children about softball, we are also showing them the importance of giving to others.”