AGSL memorial tournament benefits local scholarship

« Austintown Neighbors


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Neighbors | Jessica Harker.David and Marcy McGuire sported matching jerseys representing Katie McGuire, number 19, on the Austintown Girls Green team 18 U division, during the Jessica Morehead memorial tournament on July 7.

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Neighbors | Submitted.The Austintown Girls Green Team took first place in the 9 and under division of the Jessica Morehead Memorial tournament on July 7-8 at Austintown Park.

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Neighbors | Jessica Harker.Jason Montgomery, president of the AGSL, sat at the registration table July 7 to kick start the Jessica Morehead memorial tournament at Austintown Park.

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Neighbors | Submitted.The Austintown Girls Green Team took first place in the 12 and under division of the Jessica Morehead Memorial tournament, which took place on July 7 and 8 at Austintown Park.

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Neighbors | Jessica Harker.Parents and family members of players set up tents with drink stations for the girls and healthy snacks during the AGSL Jessica Morehead memorial softball team tournament.

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Neighbors | Submitted.The Plum team took first place in the 18 and under division of the Jessica Morehead Memorial tournament July 7-8.

By JESSICA HARKER

jharker@vindy.com

On July 7 and 8 the Austintown Girls Softball team hosted their annual Jessica Morehead memorial tournament in Austintown park.

The tournament funds a scholarship awarded annually to girls pursuing higher education who are part of the AGSL and are in their final year.

“Its a great tournament, it helps keeps the memory alive of one of our former players and really is needed in the community,” said Jason Montgomery, the president of the league.

The tournament had 14 teams total that were split into three divisions, 9 and under, 12 and under, and 18 and under.

Teams from around the area, including a 9U team from Canfield and four Austintown teams, faced a range of competition from both Ohio and PA.

The game play took two days, with each team working their way through a bracket for placement.

Along with tournament sign up costs, the league had donations for parking, concessions and merchandise for sale throughout the tournament that directly benefitted the scholarship fund.

Winners of this years tournament were the Austintown girls Green Team in the 9U division, Austintown girls Green Team in the 12U division, and Plum, a PA team, winning the 18U division.

The tournament and the scholarship were created in honor of Jessica Morehead, a player in the league who died in 2003 after a long battle leukemia. She was 16 at the time.

“She had a short period of time where she did experience good health, but after that remission went away and it came back, it came back hard,” said George Podolsky, one of the creators of the scholarship and tournament who coached Jessica, “It was a devastating thing.”

Podolsky, who was good friends of Jessica’s family, said that the amazing thing was Jessica’s attitude throughout her battle and the way the community reacted.

“Through the whole process it really gave you some faith in humanity, the Austintown community came together in a way I have never seen before. It really showed the good side of people.” Podolsky said.

He described Jessica as someone who always wanted to give back, remembering one instance when she told him her dream when she grew up was to become a doctor to help other children who battle cancer.

“When she got sick it was like she went from a 12-year-old to a 20-year-old over night. Now she is digging in and fighting for her life, but she’s still caring about others.” Podolsky said,

It was in the spring of 2003, after Jessica passed away, that the idea to start a tournament and scholarship in her name came up.

“We came up with the idea that we have great kids in this league, what better way to honor Jessica’s name then to look for the girls in our league who really display the characteristics of Jessica,” Podolsky said, “How can we honor her and help our girls at the same time.”

According to Podolsky these characteristics include helpfulness, community service and engagement, as well as their desire to do good in the world.

The process for the scholarship money is long, keeping the girls names as anonymous as possible throughout and getting letters from counselors and teachers at their school. The goal, Podolsky said, is to grant money based on who the girls are as people, rather than athletic ability.

“We try to use all of the information to really find good kids,” Podolsky said, “We look for caring, respectful, honest young ladies that act and do what Jessica was doing.”

Along with the money the league gets for the scholarship through the tournament, Podolsky said they also have outside supporters that allow them to give out more than one scholarship a year.

These supporters included the Youngstown Women’s bowling league, who donated funds for a number of years until they were disbanded. After that, James Patterson, of Patterson family eye care, who has coached in the league, began to donate to the fund as well.

Depending on the number of girls who are eligible for the scholarship each year, and how much money the league is able to obtain, the amount of scholarship money and number can vary. According to Podolsky the average is two to three scholarships a year, amounting to around $4,000.

“It’s been amazing, and I am so excited this has been going on for 16 years,” Podolsky said, “I hope it continues forever.”

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