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Annual Charity Game kicks off Cactus League in Peoria

The Peoria Diamond Club's 2012 Charity Game was the most successful in its 20-year history with a crowd of nearly 11,000 in attendance and the total amount of money raised expected to surpass the $150,000 mark.

A crowd of 10,490 turned out for this year's Charity Game, held March 4 at the Peoria Sports Complex. The Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres squared off for the event, traditionally held mid-week but staged this year for the first time ever on a Sunday.

Organizers credit the switch to the weekend - and unseasonably warm weather - for this year's large turnout.

The Peoria Diamond Club is a nonprofit organization that assists with operations at the sports complex. The club oversees the ticket operations and provides volunteers to serve as ushers, program sellers and in the parking lot.

For its services, the club receives from the City of Peoria a portion of revenue generated during the entire Cactus League season. All club proceeds are donated to charities and organizations serving the youth in the Northwest Valley.

The club's agreement with the city, however, also provides one game where 100 percent of the ticket and program sales, as well as parking lot revenue, is donated directly to the club. The teams, in essence, play for free and the game has become known as The Charity Game.

Club volunteers and board members pitch in by promoting ticket sales for the game and selling additional sponsorships to area businesses. The game continues to grow in popularity and has become the club's largest single fundraiser.

The club maintains a volunteer force of over 500 who help at spring training games and other events at the stadium throughout the year. These volunteers are commonly referred to as "red shirts" because of their easily identifiable red uniforms.

The club's volunteer board of directors - the "blue shirts" - set policy and strategy for the organization, and help plan and stage various events. The club has a paid executive director and ticket manager to help with the day-to-day operations of the organization.

The club was created when the stadium first opened primarily to oversee the ticket operations. Over the years its activities and functions have expanded -- much to the benefit of local youth charities.

Over the past two decades the club has donated over $1 million to area charities - ranging from school clubs, Little League programs, theater groups, sporting events and more. Recently the club has joined forces with the Peoria Unified School District and will begin funding college scholarships for Peoria students who need assistance.

The club has donated over $100,000 during the past year alone, with $11,000 handed out to several recipients prior to the start of the March 4 charity game.

For more information on donating to the club, volunteering or to inquire about a grant, visit www.peoriadiamondclub.org.

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