The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Strong response to call for support at Danny B


August 26, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe Members of Team Ryan and The Ragone's shake hands following a game Saturday as part of the ninth annual Danny B Jack and Jill softball tournament in Gile, Wis. Team Ryan members are family, friends and Elk & Hound Restaurant coworkers of Ryan Alessandroni, who took his life at age 36 in January.

GILE, Wis. - It was perfect softball weather but organizers were playing with pain with the loss of Deloris Baross on the eve of Saturday's ninth annual Danny B Jack and Jill softball tournament.

Baross was the mother of Danny Baross, the 31-year-old Erwin Township man for whom the tournament was named by friends who wanted to remember him after his death by suicide in 2009. She died on Friday.

"Danny and my mom are watching from up above," said Lori Baross, a sister of Danny. "The only reason I'm here is because before she passed I promised that I would."

Deloris believed in the tournament, said Bryan Sokolowski, tournament director and event committee president.

"Momma Baross was a part of this committee and this meant everything to her," he said.

Danny Baross loved softball and the co-ed tournament matched his personality as someone who liked to have fun and enjoy life, Sokolowski said. The response from the community and businesses has been unbelievable, he said.

The players and volunteers make the tournament succeed, he said. The committee has work to do all year but it's the game day people who make it all happen, he said.

"It's all the people you see here. They step up," Sokolowski said.

To encourage the 13 teams to stick around there was a 50-50 drawing and a kickball consolation game. The are also a lot of people who just come to watch, he said.

"They come in and participate or spectate because it's helping them personally," Sokolowski said.

The tournament addresses the stigma of depression and suicide, he said. There are a lot of good people here who support one other and love one another and that's what the weekend is all about, he said,

"To enjoy life and have fun," Sokolowski said.

Volunteers with the Gogebic County Victims Services Unit responded to a call for volunteers. There aren't usually that many concessions volunteers, Lori Baross said.

"Bryan reached out to the community and everyone has just stepped up, they really have," she said.

Gloria Siirila, a Victim Services Unit member, said this was her first time volunteering with the tournament.

"I love to volunteer for things like this," Siirila said. "It's wonderful, and a beautiful day. We couldn't ask for a nicer day."

Missy Lane, the quality improvement coordinator and administrative assistant for Community Mental Health in Wakefield, is also a member of the Range Suicide Prevention Council. She volunteered because the tournament addresses the stigma of depression and other mental illness.

"We are trying to bring education and awareness to the community about asking for help and that it's OK to ask for help and talk about you're mental illness," Lane said. "We certainly believe that seeking help and talking about it does help decrease episodes of suicide, things like that."

The funding from the tournament helps with programs and should be celebrated as an event that brings people together for a specific purpose, said Crystal Suzik, vice president of Range Suicide Prevention Council. It's not only to remember people who were lost but to help those who are struggling and introducing people to learning how to help others, she said.

"Softball is universal in being an activity so embedded in society and it's always been the American game," Suzik said.

Danny Baross loved co-ed tournaments because he felt the were more enjoyable and that men's softball could get too serious, said Lori Baross. He played the tournaments with his wife and it was the way his friends wanted to remember him, she said.

"I get one weekend out of the year where everybody get's to remember my brother and keep him alive," Baross said. "He was a great person."

Aaron Bigboy, of Bad River, was playing with The Munch as a last minute substitute. The former U.S. Marine said it disturbed him to read about fellow Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan deployments who were committing suicide at an average of 22 a day. The tournament has a lot of players and cheering sections and they all were affected by suicide one way or another, he said.

"That's where my motivation is, being a Marine Corps vet and for my fellow service members who are not getting the help they need," Bigboy said. "Any kind of help or any kind of support, I am always for it."

Bigboy said he has also had dark moments in his life and understands the importance of reaching out for people and resources. It pained him to read about a Marine who took his own life in a car outside a VA clinic where he couldn't find help.

"It's not easy," he said. "If you don't have the right help and the resources aren't there, it's tough."

Team Ryan was playing their first tournament in memory of Ryan Alessandroni, who died by suicide this past January at age 36. His aunt, Dottie Lahti of Ironwood, was there to cheer on the team.

"This is his favorite sport," Lahti said. "It's been an emotional morning."

Chris Bergquist, of Bessemer, said Alessandroni was an avid ball player. The tournament was a good experience for his friends to get together and remember him on the field.

"He was a good guy," she said. "You never know and it's hard to know what's going on behind closed doors and behind people's minds. It's sad."

Victim Services Unit volunteers showcased a quilt display with photos of suicide victims sewn into the squares. Amber Symons, Wakefield, was remembering her brother, Corey Maslanka, while Nikki Peterson, of Ironwood, remembered her cousin, Luke Lipski, who was also being remembered by a cousin, Katie Nelson, who called the event "a celebration of life."

The Danny B tournament has raised $40,000 of which $25,000 was donated to Range Area Suicide Prevention. This year's totals won't be announced until later in the week.


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