SPRINGDALE — A cool jazz guitar rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by former Yankee outfielder and recording artist Bernie Williams was the highlight of the Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation’s Cool Summer Night of Glitz and Glam Gala. The formal affair took place Saturday (Aug. 18) at the Springdale Holiday Inn ballroom.
“The weather listened perfectly for us, it is a cool summer night,” said Dan Skoff, chief meteorologist for KNWA and emcee for the night.
The gala included dinner, dancing and both silent and live auctions. Williams, four-time World Series champ of the New York Yankees, was the keynote speaker for the event.
JP Suarez, senior vice president for international business development for Walmart, was given the honor of introducing Williams.
“I’m a life-long suffering Mets fan,” Suarez said. “Bernie, you should have been a Met.”
Williams, born and raised in Puerto Rico, knows about heat. “It’s hot and humid here like it is in Puerto Rico,” he said. “Perfect weather for playing baseball.”
Williams had a 16-year long baseball career, during which he was lucky enough to not have any life-altering injuries.
“Hydration is one of the most overlooked subjects in sports,” Williams said. “In high intensity sports, you can’t show a sign of weakness, like getting a drink, when in fact you have a problem you’re not aware of.”
During his days in track and field in school, he was educated on the importance of fueling his body.
“I was introduced to pre-hydrating,” Williams said. “I began to be able to notice a difference in my body and it’s performance when I was lacking hydration.”
With 6,000 people in the emergency room in the last year with heat related illnesses, the United States unfortunately has a lack of education about the dangers.
The foundation’s annual gala, held during Heat Stroke Awareness Month, aims to raise money and awareness about the dangers of heat related illnesses.
“There simply shouldn’t be 675 stories a year about lives cut short from heat related illness,” Suarez said. “The most vulnerable population for it is kids.”
Rhonda Fincher started the foundation in 1996, a year after her son, Kendrick, died from complications of heat stroke at age 13. The foundation, one of only a few in the country like it, operates with a vision for “improved safety for athletes and a reduction in the number of injuries and death from heat related causes for all ages.”
Proceeds from the gala and other events held throughout the year go toward educating school-aged children, athletes, coaches and parents on proper hydration. The foundation distributes squeeze bottles at the educational presentations for kids.
At this year’s gala, there was a lot of glam during the live auction. Some of the more sought-after items included a stays at condos in both Las Vegas and Orlando, a sunset cruise on Beaver Lake, a diamond ring, a crawfish boil with 120 lbs. of crawfish and a Yankee jersey signed by Williams. Suarez, the diehard Mets fan, bought the Yankee’s jersey for his brother, a Yankee fan.
A section of the silent auction was dedicated solely to sports memorabilia and included autographed footballs from Drew Brees and Tom Brady, as well as an autographed tennis ball from Serena Williams.