Sunday was a day of memories for the softball community. The Vikings softball team hosted its first alumni game and held the special event in memory of a .
Players and spectators alike came together and remembered former Parsippany Hills softball player Kate Russell. Russell graduated from the Hills in 2007. Two years later, she lost her life while on spring break in the Dominican Republic. She was 20 years old at the time of her death.
Alumni players of all ages dusted off their cleats and gloves and took to the field to celebrate Russell's lifelong love of the game. Smiles radiated the field and the warm support of family and friends made it clear that this event offered much more than the satisfaction of playing.
"It's a great way for everyone to just get together and celebrate her and honor her spirit," said Lauren Satch, Kate's high school friend and teammate. "It was nice to see so many people come out for the cause.
"Kate would've loved this. Everyone had a great time reminiscing and laughing with old teammates and playing a game we all love."
Organizers say Russell's legacy as a softball player, daughter, friend and sister inspired several of her loved ones to come together to create an annual event to carry on her memory. For the past three years, the Kate Russell event was a crosstown match between the Hills' softballers and the Red Hawks.
Now an alumni softball game, the event also raised money for the Kate Russell Memorial Scholarship Fund. The effort will present a monetary award annually to a graduating female student-athlete who best represents Russell's qualities.
Russell's former coach recalled the young woman and those qualities fondly.
"Kate loved to play softball and was an important part of the PHHS softball organization for four years," said Chrissy Russell. "She always had a smile on her face and was a true team captain. Kate genuinely cared for all of her teammates and was known for baking her famous chocolate chip cookies for everyone to enjoy on bus rides to away games."
The cookie tradition, started by Russell, continues, according to Lauren Satch. Russell's sister Megan took on the task and then passed it down to sister Rebecca.
The chocolate chip cookies were one way in which Russell showed real passion for the team, said her onetime coach.
"Her love for the game was infectious," she said. "It was a true honor to be in her presence on and off the field."
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone each day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast, sign-up here.