9th Annual Charity Ball a grand slam home run

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – A sunny evening set the tone at Ruger Park on Sep. 23. While burgers were being flipped and refreshments were getting served, elementary, middle and high school staff members from Devils Lake Public Schools played catch and took a couple of practice swings before the upcoming softball game. 

Of course, the 9th Annual Charity Ball was not a game with only a handful of attendees. Instead, the event drew well north of 100 spectators, fans and event members alike. 

The 9th Annual Charity Ball took place at Ruger Park on Sep. 23.

Over the years, the Charity Ball has become a tradition of sorts. Since the event's inception 10 years ago, the idea was to associate a community member in need with the school district and raise funds for the community member in question. From business donations to funding raised from bake sales and silent auctions, the event has consistently racked in $10,000-15,000 every year. 

This year, the event earnings went toward Jessly Beckstrand, a three-year-old battling brain cancer. From surgeries and six-and-a-half weeks of radiation to a 54-day stay in Fargo, Jessly's journey has been a lengthy one. 

And so, the 9th Annual Charity Ball selected Jessly as the recipient for the expenses pooled together. 

Debra Schoepp, Jessly's mother, was completely taken away by the community's generosity in setting up the event in Jessly's honor. 

"It has been overwhelming," Schoepp said. "It is amazing they were willing to do this. My daughter was diagnosed at 10 months old with a brain tumor. She has had to have multiple surgeries, lots of chemotherapy, six-and-a-half weeks of radiation. All the time off work and all the trips to Fargo because that is the closest place that everything can be done for her. It is going to help us out a lot with the time away from work and travel expenses."  

To Central Middle School English teacher Megan Wasness, the 9th Annual Charity Ball was an opportunity to help Jessly out and create a sense of family bonding with her and her family. Although the Charity Ball took the form of a basketball game in years previous, a softball game this time around still rounded the bases in getting the point across. 

"It brings together all of the schools," Wasness said. "We all pitch in and help. You can see all the people with concessions and the silent auction. We also reach out to businesses in the community for donations, and it is just overwhelming how many donations we get pouring in for our silent auction. If you go into the pavilion over there, you will see all the baskets and donations. It is awesome. For that person in our community, it is just great to see them get those funds they need for medical expenses or whatever it might be. It is a great way to bring everyone together and support someone." 

As student-made posters and signs waved in the wind, each team found their athlete spirit of putting on a good show for Jessly after she ceremoniously threw out the first pitch Thursday evening. 

Jessly Beckstand throws out the first pitch at the 9th Annual Charity Ball to Debra Schoepp, her mother.

Wasness could describe the experience in one simple word. 

"Generosity," Wasness said. "It opens people's hearts and makes people give for no other reason than to simply give." 

In Schoepp's mind, the event brought similar feelings of happiness. As she carried her daughter around the softball diamond, Schoepp stood in awe as the community continued to play the game and do it all in the name of her daughter. 

From start to finish, Schoepp was blown away by the community response. 

"It is very overwhelming to see the entire community come out and support us as a family and my daughter, especially," Schoepp said.