Deanna Rivers’ softball tournament continues to give back

(Photo Credit: Liana Bonavita, NEWS10 ABC)

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In sports and in life, things never turn out how you think.

To use a softball analogy, you’re not always going to get a fastball down the middle. Sometimes you’re thrown a curveball.

But while the pitch can be tough to handle, it’s what we do with it that ultimately defines us.

When it comes to Brian and Debbie Rivers, they continue to crush it out of the park year after year.

“It’s overwhelming actually,” Brian Rivers said.

Brian and Deborah Rivers continue to turn tragedy into triumph.

“The attendance, the girls sign up to play, continues to grow more than the first year of the accident,” Brian Rivers said.

The infamous Northway crash, nearly four and a half years ago, claimed the life of the Rivers’ eldest daughter, Deanna and fellow Shenendehowa high school classmate Chris Stewart. Shen’s Matthew Hardy and Shaker’s Bailey Wind survived. The foursome’s car struck by a drunk driver following the Albany Cup basketball game.

The Rivers have used softball, Deanna’s favorite sport, to heal not just themselves but the community.

“My wife and i, it’s just in here. The people we see that come here…that’s what it means to us,” Brian Rivers said.

The last five years they’ve hosted the Deanna Rivers 518 Memorial Softball Tournament and with the help of their daughter’s foundation, they’ve given back to those in need.

“When you’re thinking about donating for the foundation and thinking about different things you want to do, (you ask) what does Deanna want you to do”?, Brian Rivers said.

The family knew just the person. Deanna’s former coach and mentor, Mike Podkladek, better known as M.P., he was diagnosed last October with an incurable form of cancer.

“We’re going to present to you a dream vacation for your entire family of five including airfare, hotel, limousine to-and-from, and a five-day cruise for all five of you to get away,” Brian Rivers said.

What was it like to give back to somebody who obviously meant so much to Deanna?

“Amazing. They had such a unique relationship that, when we first heard the news, we knew we had to do something,” Debbie Rivers said.

A $6,000 trip for “M.P.,” the Rivers try each year to raise $19,000. Nineteen was Deanna’s number in softball.

“Like my wife said, you know, you get a sign and you got to follow through on it you know? For her,” Brian Rivers said.

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