Thursday, August 5, 2004

Bad wigs, bad togs, good cause

Delhi Skirt Game no eye-candy, but it raises much-needed help

By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

Bill Ackman has participated in the Skirt Game for 17 years. This year he will be "Laura Bush." In years previous he has been Crystal Gayle, Olivia Newton-John and Olive Oyl.
DELHI TWP. - There exists a place where Pat Nixon strikes out Eleanor Roosevelt. Where Marilyn Monroe hurls a fastball at Bess Truman. Where Mary Todd Lincoln whooshes past the bases like a ghost.

No, it's not heaven. It's Delhi Township.

Here, where the men are men, they're actually dressed like women.

The occasion is Friday's 27th annual benefit Skirt Game, during which a couple dozen local guys don skirts, wigs, makeup, stockings and shirts bulging with balloons.

Then they play softball.

Clearly, they're in a league of their own.

Year after year, the real attraction is the slapstick softball game and the local celebrities who run around the field in girly garments.

"The goofiest thing is riding to the park in full makeup," said Delhi Police Lt. John "Satch" Coletta, who has participated in the past as Dolly Parton and a French maid.

"At every stop sign, the kid next to you is looking at you like, 'Where did this freakazoid come from?' "

The theme for this year's game is "presidential women," because of the November election. That means Monica Lewinsky could end up chugging a beer with Martha Washington during the seventh-inning stretch.

The idea was concocted in 1977 by four guys at Clearview Tavern in Delhi Township, Coletta said. They were kicking around ideas to help Jeff Zurlinden, a resident who was paralyzed in a bicycle accident.

What: 27th annual Skirt Game
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday. Game starts at 6 p.m.
Where: Delhi Park, 5125 Foley Road (Field One).
Directions: From downtown, take Sixth Street Viaduct west to River Road. Right onto Fairbanks Avenue, which turns into Delhi Pike. Right at Pedretti Avenue. Left at Foley Road.
Activities: Music, food, drinks, face painting, raffles and slides.
Cost: Free. Raffles and concessions benefit needy residents.
"It's all about helping people who cannot come up with the money for their medical bills," said manager Terry Garrett.

Twenty-seven years later, the event has raised $750,000 to benefit Delhi's needy.

More than 150 volunteers, including people from the Delhi Athletic Association, local police and fire departments and area businesses, put the event together.

Each year thousands of dollars are raised through concessions and raffles. More than 90 cents of every dollar raised this year will go to beneficiaries.

"It's been a real blessing for the Delhi community," Trustee Al Duebber said. "There have been countless families who have been able to get over the hump of financial burden."

Previous recipients have received money for medical bills, housing repairs and wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

The family of Elizabeth Hericks, a 1-year-old Delhi girl who received a liver transplant in April, is one of this year's beneficiaries. With a huge hospital bill and a lifetime of prescriptions ahead of her, the family is thankful for any help they can get.

"Even if it's $50, I'll be more than grateful," said her mother, Diana Hericks.

Other beneficiaries this year - all from Delhi - include Mary Almon, who has lung disease and is in need of a liver transplant; Roger Gray, who suffers from coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis and cancer; Laura Ellis, a teacher with multiple sclerosis; and Patty Wilson, whose husband died from a heart attack while chasing after the thief who stole his daughter's scooter.

That's why come Friday you'll see Delhi resident Bill Ackman meet with his fellow players at Clearview Tavern.

They'll have a couple beers to "get our guts up," as Ackman put it. Then, the men will sit quietly while friends and wives - armed with blush, mascara and lipstick - give them an extreme makeover.

Ackman has spent the past 17 years running around dressed like Crystal Gayle, Olivia Newton-John and Olive Oyl. By now, he knows exactly what (and what not) to wear.

"The makeup doesn't do no good. We sweat it off in about five minutes," he said.

The drag is all worthwhile, he said, when the beneficiaries join the players on the field.

"It really gets to you when a kid comes out in a wheelchair," he said.

"There's not a dry eye in the place."


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