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When Seattle sports legends like Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez from the Mariners and Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton from the Sonics combine for a community event, it is bound to get a raucous reaction from the crowd.
“Just to see those guys – I’m excited for them to come out and support United Way. It’s a lot of fun,” said Kearse, a Lakes High School and University of Washington product who grew up watching those Seattle sports icons and was reluctant to put himself in the same sentence as them despite his role in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win. “I feel like I have a lot more to do, but to bring a Super Bowl to Seattle for the first time is an awesome feeling.”
Kearse is new to the United Way family, but Avril has been working with the organization for several years, beginning while he played with the Detroit Lions. That involvement took on a whole new meaning when he became a father himself and his two-year-old son Xavier served as his inspiration and motivation to continue to assume a prominent role with United Way of King County.
“It’s cool to be involved and getting awareness. We’re helping the education system and helping homeless people,” Avril said. “I have a 2-year-old son and seeing the state of the education system made me aware that I need to get involved a little more. They gave me the opportunity to get involved with them and it’s been cool.”
In the game itself, Kearse and Avril, who were playing on opposing teams, didn’t quite have the impact that Golden Tate had a year earlier when the former Notre Dame baseball player smashed a grand slam to lead the charge and earn MVP honors in a comeback victory in 2013. However, they were big hits among the fans and their celebrity teammates alike.
“They definitely got the highest ovations and rightly so. It really was a dream season. To see Jermaine Kearse out here signing autographs at the end of the dugout and Cliff Avril taking some hacks in the homerun derby - these guys went above and beyond,” said Wilson, the longtime Mariners catcher who serves as an ambassador for the United Way of King County. “What’s amazing is all these guys want to come back and be a part and help people out. You can’t do these events without a lot of people coming together. They came out and supported us in a huge way.”
In the game, Kearse popped out in his first at bat, then had a long single in the fifth inning as his team, captained by Wilson charged out to a 22-15 lead. Avril went two-for-two with an RBI single in the third inning and a double in the sixth inning, coming around to score the final run of the game as Kearse’s team emerged victorious by a final score of 22-17.
The bigger scoreline was in the over 6,500 fans in attendance at Safeco Field, raising a total of over one million dollars to help combat youth homelessness in King County – an affliction affecting over 5,000 youth in King County every year.
“The United Way of King County and the Mariners have such a great partnership and have over the years. I think what’s great about today is so many organizations and people come together. Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, United Way and so many other groups that have helped out. I think that’s what it takes to solve a challenging problem in youth homelessness,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the kids. It’s not about growing the event, it’s about helping the kids that are struggling here in King County. We’d like to one day not have the event, but to have everyone out here supporting it was very exciting and a great day all around.”
For more information on contributing to United Way, visit www.uwkc.org.