North Grounds Softball League Drives Home $20,000 for Charity

With Invitational Canceled, Firm Partners, Student Teams and Faculty Step Up to the Plate
NGSL board members

The outgoing North Grounds Softball League board held its last meeting via Zoom: From top left, Class of 2020 graduates Webmaster Clay Phillips, Head Commissioner Eleanor Schmalzl, Treasurer Ethan Silverman J.D.-MBA ’21, Head of Fields Corey Parker, Social Chair Taz Jones, Tournament Directors Ryan Ray and Austin Johnson, and Head Ump Brooke Swann. Photos courtesy of Eleanor Schmalzl and by Julia Davis

May 26, 2020

University of Virginia School of Law students with the North Grounds Softball League have raised $20,000 for a Charlottesville nonprofit, even though the group’s premier fundraising event was canceled over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual spring softball invitational, established 37 years ago, attracts over 1,000 law students from 50 law schools to Charlottesville each spring. Organizers expected the event, planned for April 3-5, to draw students from 39 law schools as far away as Florida, Illinois and Maine.

“While we were disappointed we had to cancel this year’s tournament, we are humbled by how our community and other schools came together to help us continue our support and strong commitment to ReadyKids,” said Austin Johnson ’20 and Ryan Ray ’20, this year’s tournament directors.

NGSL donated the proceeds to ReadyKids, which provides early childhood learning programs and other services for disadvantaged children. The student organization has been contributing to the nonprofit for more than a decade.

With the tournament canceled, the students reached out to firms that had pledged to sponsor the tournament to ask if they would consider donating their sponsorships to ReadyKids. Contributing firms were Davis Polk, King & Spalding, Troutman Sanders, Skadden, Sidley, K&L Gates and Hogan Lovells.

“We typically rely on entry fees, firm donations, sponsorships from Charlottesville businesses, and T-shirt and concessions sales to raise money towards ReadyKids,” Johnson and Ray said. “We certainly couldn’t do it without considerable firm partnership.”

Additionally, teams from William & Mary, Washington & Lee University, Georgetown University, the University of Michigan, Quinnipiac University and UVA donated their tournament entry fees. A group of UVA Law professors led by Professor Richard Schragger agreed to contribute additional funding.

Allison Henderson, ReadyKids’ director of development, said the nonprofit’s work during the pandemic has pivoted to supporting child care providers, arranging mental health counseling for children and supplying mothers with child care needs, such as diapers and at-home learning activities. Henderson noted that ReadyKids was originally founded in 1921 as the Children’s Home, an orphanage for children whose parents died during the Spanish flu pandemic.

“We are so grateful for the ongoing partnership with the Law School,” she said. “We are preparing for a spiked increase in kids that need support and healing in our community over the next few months, and the support of the tournament will be instrumental in our ability to meet this demand.”

  • Eleanor Schmalzl, Ryan Ray and Austin Johnson

    NGSL Head Commissioner Eleanor Schmalzl ’20, and Tournament Directors Ryan Ray ’20 and Austin Johnson ’20 at the 1L softball tournament this past September.

  • NGSL team in Washington

    The NGSL competed in the George Washington University Law School softball tournament in 2019.

  • Co-Rec Blue Team

    The Co-Rec Blue Team competed in the 2019 invitational.

  • Jeremy Gordon runs the bases

    Jeremy Gordon ’20 runs the bases at last year’s NGSL Invitational.

  • Two players high-five

    Two players high-five at the orientation game for 1Ls in August.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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