The organizers of Tuesday's baseball and softball clinic benefiting the Sissy Barnes Foundation had two factors working against them.
The event was scheduled two days before Christmas, and it fell on one of the coldest mornings of the year.
But an estimated 70 people showed up at Riverside Park for the clinics, which featured some of the top baseball coaches from throughout Georgia. All proceeds will go to the treatment of Sissy Barnes, wife of Westside High School coach Gerald Barnes, who is dealing with complications of a stroke she suffered in 2005.
"It's a pretty good deal right here, helping Gerald out," Harlem High School coach Jimmie Lewis said. "Gerald's a pretty good guy, as good a guy as ever was in this area."
Lewis was among several long-tenured coaches who volunteered to help. Among the names were University of Georgia coach Dave Perno, former Swainsboro coach Hank Aldridge, Terry Holder, Rodney Holder, Chris Wilkins, Garrett Black and Mike Leverett.
Perno was lending a hand at the request of his friend Lewis, Harlem's longtime baseball coach. Perno knows Barnes and has successfully recruited several area players, including Greenbrier graduate Rich Poythress and Westside graduate Matt Childers, who was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.
"I felt like I wanted to come back and do my part," Perno said.
Barnes accounted for more than 500 of the group's total wins. His wife has been in and out of hospitals since suffering the stroke. The foundation bearing her name was set up in 2006 by some of Gerald's former Westside players.
All proceeds from Tuesday's event will be presented to the foundation by Pitch Rite, a baseball instructional system patented last year by Aldridge.
Aldridge has traveled the state promoting his product in clinics since securing the patent. Some of the clinics have been money-making ventures. Others, such as Tuesday's clinic, are used to help coaches in need.
Aldridge and many of the same coaches who showed up Tuesday were in Twin City, Ga., on Monday holding a similar clinic to benefit Bill Bonds, a coach and assistant principal at Emanual County Institute who suffers from a rare form of cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma. Bonds' wife, Lori, was Aldridge's first bat girl at Swainsboro.
Aldridge uses the clinics to help promote his system, but wanted to be clear on his motives in helping fellow coaches.
"Even though we're teaching baseball and softball, this is a ministry," he said.
Sissy arrived around noon in a conversion van and was greeted by coaches and players as her husband pushed her wheelchair from station to station.
She was introduced to the players following the clinic and given a round of applause.
When Aldridge first told Gerald about his idea for the clinics, the Patriots coach asked what he needed to do. Aldridge told him not to worry. Former Greenbrier baseball coach and now Grovetown High School football coach Rodney Holder handled the organization.
"Everybody jumped on board," Holder said. "Not one person we called said they couldn't do it. Everything was 'What you need me to do?' and 'How much can I help?' "
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