SUGARLOAF TWP. — Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon returned home to host a fundraiser at the Valley Country Club on Friday.
The Hazleton native was in town on behalf of the Hazleton Integration Project and brought along a few friends, including actor/comedian Bill Murray.
HIP was created to unite people of different races and cultures living in the Hazleton area, focusing on the economically disadvantaged adults and youth.
“I’m honored to be a part of this,” Maddon told the crowd.
Approximately 350 people attended the casino-style event, which included a live and silent auctions of sports memorabilia from athletes and personalities, such as former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and catcher Jorge Posada, Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Hayward, ESPN’s Chris Berman and Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder.
Joining the field of celebrities in attendance with Murray were former WBC and WBA heavyweight boxing champion Tim Witherspoon, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian and Fox’s Ken Rosenthal.
Tom and Sylvia Efta travelled from Ohio to be at the fundraiser. Tom has been a Cubs fan since 1969 despite growing up in Cincinnati Reds country.
“We watched the World Series, and I knew from some of the Cubs websites that Maddon did ‘Thanksmas’ (a dinner hosted by Maddon on Sunday), and when I Googled it, I saw this event advertised,” he said.
The Efta’s took a tour of the center on Friday.
“I wanted a chance to help out (with the center) and get a chance to meet Joe,” Tom said.
Witherspoon met Maddon two years ago at an event and through the connection of mutual friend, Kenny VanScoy of Wilkes-Barre.
“We really kicked it off with Joe Maddon, and we talked about the program at the center, and because of Kenny, I’m here,” Witherspoon said.
Maddon thanked everyone who attended, including his special guests, his mom, Albina, and wife, Jaye.
Murray was the center of attention, being mobbed by media and attendees. He attempted to make his way around the facility but was stopped for photos.
Maddon introduced Murray and thanked him for being a friend and a supporter of the Cubs.
“I want to thank Joe and all of you for making it possible for me to have a destination journey of Hazleton, Pennsylvania,” Murray said. “We are going to get snow tonight, and it’s going to sound very much like Puxatawney, Pennsylvania. It’s very nice of you to have me here.”
Chicago won its first World Series title in 108 years, beating the Cleveland Indians in seven games.
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