POULSBO — Though Ian Gunnell will not be participating on a North Kitsap Little League team this season, the 7-year-old did get the chance to show off his throwing arm April 13.
Ian threw the first pitch to friend and ball player Adam Knutsen during the first of two opening day ceremonies at Snider Park, while the audience cheered and applauded.
“It was great, because his parents said he would normally be signed up to play,” said Megan Campbell Visk, Little League spokeswoman and director of operations for The RockFish Group. “It was his one chance to participate.”
Ian’s first pitch began the 2013 season. North Kitsap Little League is celebrating its 60th season.
The season is dedicated to Ian and to Carmen Garringer.
Ian, 7, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia — so rare that 25 children are known to have it in the world.
Carmen, 9, was diagnosed with extraosseous Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer among children. She began chemotherapy Jan. 16.
The league will not be doing any fundraising, but wanted to call attention to two campaigns established to help defray the cost of each child’s treatment: Ian’s Positive Fight Mode and Carmen’s Caring for Carmen. Positive Fight Mode surpassed its $100,000 goal in less than five months. Caring for Carmen is at or above $40,000. The goal for Carmen is $500,000.
Campbell Visk has a daughter in softball this season; three of her children have participated.
“We’ve all been touched by this,” Campbell Visk said. She said any Little League parent could be in the same situation as Ian’s or Carmen’s parents. The North Kitsap Little League is an all-volunteer organization that serves more than 800 families a year and is one of the longest continuing Little League organizations in the United States, according to information from RockFish.
In celebration of its 60th season, the league will be hosting a jubilee June 1. The celebration will include the “Battle for the Ball Field” and hitting and throwing contests. Campbell Visk said there is work being done to have catering, a band, and raffle. The league is always accepting donations to keep it running.
The league is also looking for former ball players who played in the 1950s for a ceremony June 1.
The turnout for opening day was a big one. Campbell Visk said the parking lot filled and cars were parking down the access road, which means hundreds of people had the opportunity to see Ian’s first pitch — right into the catcher’s mitt.