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Neal Communities Donates $10,000 to Youth Sports Leagues to Help with Hurricane Ian Recovery

Monday, May 15, 2023  |  Giving Back, News

Neal Communities, the area’s largest private home developer, has donated a total of $10,000 to two local sports leagues to help them recover from Hurricane Ian.

Neal Communities donated $5,000 to North Port Junior Bobcats Pop Warner football league to assist them with equipment purchases, including replacement of football equipment lost or damaged by the hurricane last fall. The private home developer also donated $5,000 to Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball to assist them with repairing a storm-damaged dugout roof and the main building’s roof at the organization’s fields off Fruitville Road.

“It is nice that Neal Communities cares about the area and our local youth,” said Junior Bobcats President Harry Russom, who also is the land development manager for Neal Communities. Russom requested the funds through an internal process that Neal Communities has in place to support employees and their community service.

The North Port community was severely impacted by Hurricane Ian in September. After the harsh winds subsided, rising floodwaters further damaged homes and property. The North Port Junior Bobcats league’s football players and their families were negatively impacted and some even lost their homes, Russom said. In the aftermath, the league’s football equipment, including padding and helmets, were destroyed or lost.

“It was hard on people, especially those who had lost so much,” Russom said. “The funds are helping us to get the equipment that we need so that we can continue to play.”

The pop warner football league normally has about 125 football players spread throughout five different age groups, including ages six and under, ages seven and eight, ages nine and 10, ages 11 and 12 and ages 13 and 14. The league also has a cheer program with about 85 children. The organization offers both a fall and spring season and plays at North Port High School’s football stadium, called “The Preserve.”

“The area is growing and so are our youth sports teams,” Russom said. “Neal Communities’ tagline is ‘Where You Live Matters,’ which is one of the reasons that I came to work for the company. Their values align with my values and principles.”

Neal Communities has given more than $7.75 million to local charities throughout Southwest Florida and is committed to the communities where they live, work and build.

“Local youth sports leagues like North Port’s Junior Bobcats and Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball have a positive impact on the children in our local communities,” said Pat Neal, founder and president of Neal Communities. “We’re proud to support these organization’s efforts – especially to help them recover some of their losses after the storm.”

For Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball, the funds will be used to replace roofs on a dugout and main building at their fields near the corner of Beneva Road and Fruitville Road, said Rob LaGasse, a longtime coach for Babe Ruth Baseball.

“Our regular dues don’t always cover the full operation expenses, so we run fundraisers all year,” LaGasse said. “But nothing covers unexpected needs like the repairs to these buildings.”

LaGasse first started coaching for the little league 13 years ago when his son, Alex, got involved in baseball. Alex outgrew the program, but LaGasse stayed on as a coach. He said he enjoys working with the kids and teaching them about teamwork and being a leader.

“People don’t realize that learning to be a team player helps set kids up for success. They become future business owners and learn how to be leaders,” said LaGasse, who also is a pool designer for Waterscapes Pools & Spas, part of the Neal Communities’ family of companies.

Babe Ruth Baseball is for ballplayers ages 13 to 15 who want to continue their baseball playing experience beyond the age of 12. With both a fall and spring season, the players compete on standard 90-foot diamonds under official baseball rules used by Major League Baseball.

LaGasse said he is thankful for Neal Communities’ donation to help the Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball league fix their facilities. “It makes me proud to work here,” he said. “It’s truly a family-owned business and they care about their employees’ interests.”

For more information about Neal Communities, visit www.NealCommunities.com. For more information about North Port Junior Bobcats Pop Warner or to donate to the organization to assist with storm recovery, visit www.NPJrBobcats.com. For more information about Sarasota Babe Ruth Baseball, visit www.SarasotaBabeRuth.com, and to send a donation to assist with storm recovery, email caluer@mote.org.