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Phillips, Wolves find reason to celebrate in 'Strike Out Alzheimer's' game

Zack Phillips and the Elmwood/Plum City Wolves lost their Thursday, May 17 game 7-5 to the Glenwood City Hilltoppers, but found reason to celebrate by raising money for the Alzheimer's Association in their "Strike Out Alzheimer's" night. Katie Davidson / RiverTown Multimedia

Zack Phillips, a member of the Elmwood/Plum City baseball team, lost his grandfather, LeRoy Gaub, to Alzheimer's disease five years ago.

"We were pretty close, but with Alzheimer's, you begin to lose them slowly," Phillips said.

Phillips watched his grandfather's health deteriorate before he finally lost the man who was so special to him.

Today, he and his family are raising awareness about the disease that affects so many families by selling T-shirts, sweets and raffle tickets at sporting events and donating their profits to the Alzheimer's Association.

In September 2016, then-freshman Phillips helped put together a "Tackle Alzheimer's" night during his team's homecoming football game. His baseball team's home game against the Glenwood City Hilltoppers on Thursday, May 17 was the first time he shed light on the disease during a spring sport season. The Wolves and Hilltoppers sported their matching "Strike Out Alzheimer's" shirts during warm-ups while Phillips' friends and family helped sell cookies, caramels, cotton candy and raffle tickets for Twins vs. Brewers tickets during the game to collect donations.

"It's a good deal and a great cause," said EPC's head coach Mike Birtzer. "We've never had an issue where teams haven't gotten involved also, and I think that's cool. Everybody buys into it."

Why use sports as a platform to raise awareness?

"Sports mean a lot to me," Phillips said. "If you have seasons where it doesn't go your way, at least you can do something like this."

Phillips and his teammates dropped their Thursday night game 7-5 to the Hilltoppers after coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning. Though the Wolves have yet to win a game in the 2018 season, they found other means for celebration on Thursday night: more widespread support for the Alzheimer's Association.

"Everybody, the community just comes together to help out," Phillips said. "Hopefully at some point it will be a nationwide thing. They raise awareness for breast cancer in professional sports, so maybe they will do something for Alzheimer's disease in the future."