CRANBERRY TWP — Eight years ago, Ashley Pritchard's softball team was down three runs in the bottom of the last inning of a tournament championship game in Community Park.
With her team facing adversity, her father and coach, Dave Pritchard, stepped in.
“Dave, as he always did, rallied his girls,” his wife, Julie, recalled. “They dug down deep, and they came back and won.”
It was the last of his daughter's games Dave would coach, as she left softball behind. Still, that memory has held strong over the years as Dave battled numerous health issues, including the need for a new kidney.
As the family stood on a field in that same park Saturday to kick off the annual Cranberry Community Uniting People (CUP) softball tournament, the irony of the situation wasn't lost on Julie.
“Now, he's rallying all of your teams around him, hoping you will dig down deep and bring home a winner for him in a different manner,” she told the hundreds gathered.
The Pritchard family was selected as the 2019 inspirational family for the Cranberry CUP, with funds raised to help them with medical expenses. This year — the organization's 20th — also saw a new focus on promoting organ donation, specifically in finding Dave a donor. Participants wore special wristbands throughout the weekend to promote the search, and Center for Organ Recovery & Education representatives were on hand to provide education.
Dave's need is dire, and officials said they were unsure he would be in attendance Saturday after being admitted to the hospital Thursday. Anthony Bertolino, president of the Cranberry CUP, said he was thrilled Dave was able to make it Saturday.
“It is still an ongoing process for him,” Bertolino said. “Hopefully he's on the mend for the better.”
Dave and his family — including Julie, Ashley and son, Justin — were escorted to Saturday's opening ceremonies on a township fire truck. They made their way through a tunnel of Seneca Valley cheerleaders as the gathered crowd cheered them on. It's a scene Bertolino never tires of seeing.
“It gives me chills just talking about it,” he said. “The family can take away the sense of community and how people want to step up and help them. ... That joy can't be taken away.”
The organization — founded by Cathy Cortazzo — has collected more than $2 million since it began, Bertolino said. He said through the softball games, as well as golf outings and other fundraisers, the community gets a chance to help one of their own, with all money staying in the township.
“Every response we get is positive,” he said. “People love that sense of community and volunteering and helping out.”
Robin Shaffer, vice president of Cranberry CUP, said selecting the Pritchards as the inspirational family lead to mixed emotions. She said the family was always willing to give back to their community, with Dave volunteering to coach softball and baseball for many years. Now, they need that same support from the community.
“Cathy Cortazzo always says something that resonates with me: In a heartbeat, in a second, anybody's life can change, and that's what the Pritchard family is going through,” Shaffer said.
Stepping up to help others is what makes Cranberry Township great, according to Supervisor Mike Manipole. He commended the participants for showing up and helping whether they knew the family or not.
“You all go home a winner, because you know that you helped make a difference in someone else's life,” he said.
As for Dave Pritchard, he had few words Saturday as he waived and smiled at those gathered to help him in his journey.
“This is one great community we live in,” he said.