The second annual Cloudbuster Invitational, a youth baseball tournament benefiting the Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at UNC Children’s Hospital, will take place this weekend at the Parkwood Ballfield in Durham.
The tournament and the rehabilitation program are both inspired by Lee Fitch, a young Chapel Hill resident who was struck by a car on Laurel Hill Road two years ago. After suffering a massive traumatic brain injury, Fitch was kept in the UNC Children’s pediatric intensive care unit in a coma for three days.
When Lee Fitch woke up and his parents were asking for rehabilitation options, they said they didn't find the answers they were looking for.
“Once he woke up and they're doing some more assessments, they told us that they were looking for a place for us to go,” David Fitch, Lee Fitch’s father and local business owner, said. “We were flabbergasted. Why in the hell would we go anywhere? We’re in the best hospital in the state."
The Fitch family then spent two months at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where Lee Fitch made a full physical recovery. Disappointed by the lack of a pediatric rehabilitation program in the Triangle area, the Fitches decided to bring a change to UNC Children’s Hospital.
David Fitch said UNC football head coach Mack Brown and his wife Sally Brown provided initial funding to name the project The Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program. In the past year, $3 million has been raised through fundraising events like the Cloudbuster Invitational.
The baseball tournament will start off on Friday with a surprise "big name Tar Heel" throwing the first pitch, Jody Mills, a friend of the Fitch family and the tournament’s organizer, said. Four local 12-and-under traveling baseball teams will compete for the winning title, and there will be a home run derby at night.
Lee Fitch, who just celebrated his 12th birthday last week, will be playing in the tournament alongside his Little League teammates on the Carolina Rattlers.
“It's kind of celebrating his recovery,” Mills said. “It's raising awareness for this program, which hopefully can provide similar services to kids for years to come.”