Family, friends of NA youth raise funds in his memoryNORTH ATTLEBORO - Rain, thunder and lightning couldn't stop the friends and family of Alex Blase from descending on Mason Field Saturday for the second annual Wiffle Ball tournament to honor the teen who died in 2008.
Nor did it stop one very special guest: the recipient of Alex's heart, Ramon Andreoni.
Andreoni, 62, of Pawtucket, received Alex's heart two years ago after the teen died at age 17 when a blood vessel in his brain ruptured while he was playing a pickup game of basketball.
He is one of 24 people helped through Alex's organ donations.
Andreoni was the guest of honor Saturday, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the second annual Alex Blase Wiffle Ball Tournament, which drew hundreds out to show their support on a soggy Saturday. By the end of the day-long event, approximately 70 teams would raise at least $8,000 for the Alex Blase Scholarship Foundation, according to estimates made by organizers.
Andreoni said he was very glad and happy to have been invited to take part in the event.
"I have been blessed by God to have the heart, to meet new family and friends," he said.
Jim Blase, Alex's father, warmly introduced Andreoni as "...the newest member of our family," to the crowd, and each member of the Blase family hugged him.
Andreoni then threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Alex's twin brother Jimmy, 19, before the two hugged again in a special moment.
Alex's cousin, Megan Thompson, 25, of North Attleboro, said the main goal of the family was to meet whoever was given the heart.
"He had a great heart to donate," said Thompson, who played in the tournament on a team called "If Alex has sisters..."
Donate Life allowed the family to contact Andreoni a year after the transplant, Thompson said.
Thompson said that the family was allowed to meet Andreoni a few weeks ago, so they could have the emotional meeting before the tournament.
"Luckily for us, he is practically down the street," she said. "It was great to meet him." Alex's best friend, Josh Impey, 19, of North Attleboro, was also introduced to Andreoni.
"I didn't believe it. To meet the recipient of my best friend's heart," he said, of meeting Andreoni. "It was breath-taking."
Jim Blase opened up the day's events, welcoming the crowd to the field and joking that while they'd play rain or shine, "Now if Alex could take care of the rain, we'd be all set."
There was creativity in the uniforms, with many keeping the theme of heroes in mind. One group of players had "Be Fierce, Be a Hero" written on the backs of their shirts.
Many others had "05-12-08" on their uniforms, as a reminder that the game was around the anniversary.
"Alex's Stars," and "Wiffle Ball Heroes," were just two of the approximate 70 teams to take part in the damp games.
Following the games, organizers continued Alex's example of giving by presenting three scholarships at the closing ceremony, held at the Elks Lodge.