BUSAN, South Korea – Since the end of the Korean War, the Korean economy has evolved into one of the most powerful in Asia. Currently ranked 13th in the world, one can easily notice its growth—massive skyscrapers being built, expensive cars cruising along the streets and trendy shops and cafes all over the city. However, not everyone has benefited from that success.
In 2004, Newport Beach, California native Michael Spiller hoped to create a leisure sports event that demonstrated the positive nature of helping others, so he organized a yearly charity softball tournament to help those less fortunate. Since then, he has helped raise over 10 million won for local charities.
This year, he has teamed up with HQ Bar in Kyungsung to host the 7th Annual Charity Softball Tournament, which will take place Sunday, June 6th, at the baseball field of Kyungsung University. The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until dusk. The goal is to raise over 3 million won for local students who can’t afford meals, as well as the Shin Ae Orphanage and Rehabilitation Center, located near the old Camp Hialeah in Busanjin-gu.
“I started this event to have fun, to help promote a cultural exchange, and most of all to help the kids,” Spiller said. “There was no way back then of knowing how we could give back to the community, so with the help of others, I decided to start this tournament.”
This year alone, Busan city helps 47,000 students from elementary to high school who need meal assistance, which is 11.4% of the student population of local schools. Other organizations help as well, but more assistance is needed. The cost is about 56,000 won per student.
Yoona Kang, a teacher at Busan Yongin High School, became involved in this event in hopes of helping students any way she can. “I want to encourage students to do their best. I want them to dwell less on the problems they have, so that they can focus on learning and improve themselves,” she said. “Sometimes I hear a parent call a homeroom teacher and ask for assistance, only to hear that it’s not possible because there are poorer students to help. It’s a very sad situation.”
The tournament features seven teams in a round-robin tournament setting. Anybody is encouraged to play, and each team must be coed. Currently, most teams have been filled, but there may be spots available on teams. “We’re limited by space right now, as it is tough to get access to open baseball fields in the summer,” Spiller said. "However, since we have now changed locations from Dongseo University, we hope to expand the yearly fundraiser to more than once a year."
In addition to the softball tournament, this Saturday, May 29th, HQ Bar will be auctioning off donated items from local businesses. They include meals, bottle service at local nightclubs, gift certificates and even 10 free MMA training lessons. They will also be serving a rib dinner, with 20% of the proceeds donated to the charities.
Busan’s expats have a long history of donating their time and energy to raise funds for those less fortunate. As for Spiller, he is one in a long line of those who donates his time for a worthy cause. “We encourage anyone who is looking to assist us to contact me. We could use any help from being an umpire to selling hot dogs. Being at the ball diamond is a great way to spend an afternoon, and it helps those in need.”
For more information about the softball tournament, you can contact Michael Spiller at email@example.com
For more information about the charity auction at HQ, you can get more info here.