WITH THOUSANDS of fans attending the 24th annual Phillies Phestival at Citizens Bank Park yesterday, the club raised thousands of dollars to support the fight against ALS.
Fans were invited to join players, wives, broadcasters, ballgirls, front-office employees and the Phanatic as the fundraiser raised money to fight the disease that claimed the life of Yankees Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig.
"This is great," second baseman Chase Utley said. "Every year it seems like this event has gotten bigger with a better turnout. All of us are excited to be able to contribute and give back in some way."
Every player and coach was assigned to a section of the ballpark, signing autographs and in some cases taking a quick picture for fans looking to meet their favorite Phillie.
"We really enjoyed it as a team and we all had a good time," manager Charlie Manuel said. "This was one of the biggest days of the season, and we are always happy to do it for a great cause."
The annual Phestival featured 21 signing stations and three photo booths allowing fans to pose for a picture with centerfielder Ben Revere, pitcher Cliff Lee or Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.
"It's a great charity event and I got a chance to meet and get a photo with Mike Schmidt. That was always a dream of mine," said Scott Lehman, who was attending the event for the third time. "You don't get a chance to meet the players like this during the season and it's really nice to feel like a part of the Phillies."
Included in the event was a silent auction that not only featured Phillies memorabilia but also items from other professional sports teams. The money raised from signed baseball bats, helmets, baseballs, jerseys and pictures helped to benefit victims of ALS.
"I think just for us to get that perspective to know that we're fortunate to do what we do and to give back to a wonderful cause is what we take from today," pitcher Cole Hamels said. "It's a special moment for them and we try to make it as special as we can for everybody."
Along with autograph and photograph opportunities, music and games filled Citizens Bank Park during the 2-hour event, which attracted a crowd of nearly 7,000. Fans also had an opportunity to purchase grab bags and take a chance at a dice game that produced a winner with each roll.
"It means giving patients the opportunity to have better supplies and a better life that they otherwise wouldn't receive," Gail Houseman, a nurse for the ALS Association, said of the event.
The Phillies announced later last night that the event raised $860,731, bringing the all-time total to more than $14 million.
At the completion of the event, players joined ALS patients in the Phillies' media room where autographs, conversation, pictures and smiles were exchanged.
"Helping those with ALS is just a blessing," Revere said. "This kind of event is something that I could do each and every day."