Volunteers from Avery Renovations cut plywood to board up the Liverpool Girls Softball League’s concession stand to secure the building after an arson fire on July 2 caused significant damage to the facility. Since the fire, donations have poured in from all over the community.
“Look for the helpers.”
Fred Rogers said his mother told him this when tragedy would strike and he would get upset: Look for those who are trying to make things better.
For the board members, coaches and players of the Liverpool Girls Softball League (LGSL), the helpers are taking a devastating situation — an arson fire that did somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 in damages to the concession stand and bathrooms at their fields at Electronics Park in Salina — and making it bearable.
“It’s really upsetting and heartbreaking [to see the damage],” said Denise Murray, LGSL board member and former league president. “But we’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support. We’ve got a lot of people who want to donate things… This could really break us, but we’re all bound and determined. It’s not going to.”
The suspect, Thomas Cerio, 58, of Trivet Drive North, is accused of setting several fires in the town of Salina. The first was at the Syracuse Indoor Sports Center on Hopkins Road on May 28. Cerio is alleged to have set three more the night of July 1 and the early morning of July 2, including the one at the LGSL field. Cerio is charged with arson in the third degree and criminal mischief in the second degree.
The fire, which was discovered at about 5:30 a.m. Monday, July 2, damaged the building’s roof, bathrooms, electrical wiring, drywall, asphalt and exterior brick. In addition, ceiling fans and light fixtures inside the structure will need replacing. The damage is particularly costly, since the league does not have insurance.
“Our building has never been insured,” Murray said. “We have insurance for players, but whenever past treasurers would try to get building insurance, nobody would ever want to insure us because our building’s on the town of Salina property.”
Chris Benz, Salina’s parks and recreation director, told Murray he would help get insurance for the facility going forward, but all repair costs for now will have to be paid out of pocket or through donations.
Fortunately, the community has stepped up in a big way. Several businesses have donated goods and services; TPM Contractors provided dumpsters, while Avery Renovations, a regular team sponsor during the softball season, secured the facility and did some preliminary cleanup on July 4. Donations have also poured in from former players and coaches, and from the community at large.
In addition, Cerio’s neighbors on Trivet Drive have made their own contribution. They were stunned to learn that a suspected arsonist was living on the same street where they were raising their children, some of whom play for the LGSL. But families were determined to, as one mom put it, “take back the neighborhood.”
“We wanted to do something positive,” said Sara Sherlock, whose daughter Maggie, 9, plays in the LGSL’s Developmental League. “The girls had been talking about having a lemonade stand for a while, and we thought, ‘What better time to do it?’”
Maggie Sherlock and a friend set up their stand on July 3 in their cul-de-sac and raised $40, which they’ll be donating to the league to be used toward repairs. They set up a stand at Electronics Park once again Friday evening to raise more money, and they plan to be present again on Aug. 5, when the LGSL hosts its second annual Jaimie Bailer Day.
“Jaimie passed away in October of 2016,” Murray said. “All three of the Bailer girls grew up on the LGSL fields, and when she passed away, we declared Jaimie Bailer Day the first Sunday in August of every year.”
Jaimie Bailer Day includes softball games for all ages. While last year’s inaugural event was just meant to memorialize Bailer, this year’s will also act as a fundraiser to help rebuild the concession stand.
“Her sisters and her mom are all about it,” Murray said. “Life knocks you down, pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and get back in it.”
More details about the fundraiser will be available in the coming weeks.
While the donations continue to pour in, Murray said she and other board members are amazed at the generosity they’ve seen so far.
“We’re just reinforced by the wonderful outreach,” she said. “We’re just really grateful [for] this community, for our neighbors and friends that we haven’t even met yet, but we’re in the process of meeting them. It’s encouraging.”
To donate money or to learn more about donating services or goods, visit the league’s Facebook page. Checks can also be mailed to Liverpool Girls Softball League, P.O. Box 645, Liverpool, NY 13088. Please write “Vandalism” or “Field repairs” in the memo line.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.