Sponsored by Wings Etc. Grill & Pub, the November Michiana-area tournament set both fundraising and participation records, ensuring many children and their families enjoyed Christmas magic
Wings Etc., Inc., franchisor of the Wings Etc. Grill & Pub sports bar brand, sponsored the 12th annual Wings Etc. Toys for Tots Softball Tournament, held November 4–5 at Byers Softball Complex in South Bend, Indiana. The event raised a record-breaking $26,500 for less fortunate children in the community.
In addition, Wings Etc. collected more than 300 new, unwrapped toys for children in the Michiana region, both at the tournament and via donation boxes in area restaurants. The toys and the funds were presented to the Marine Corps in a celebration December 9 at the Wings Etc. restaurant at 11480 McKinley Highway in Osceola, Indiana.
This year reflects ongoing significant growth for the event, with 24 men’s teams and 25 co-ed teams participating in 2023. Each player paid $5 or donated a toy to sign up; entry fees went directly to Toys for Tots. The tournament’s longtime organizer, Mike Curry, has grown the event over the past 12 years to include the Michiana Chrysler Home Run Derby, the Armed Forces Battle for the Tots and the Annual Toys for Tots Ugly Sweater Christmas Draft Tournament.
The 12-year total raised for Toys for Tots is $151,000.
Curry also sells tournament T-shirts, with proceeds from the sales benefitting Toys for Tots. This year, Santa Claus was a special guest for families on Sunday evening.
Toys for Tots has long been close to Wings Etc. founder Jim Weaver’s heart; restaurants in the area have served as drop-off points even before Wings Etc. became the tournament sponsor 10 years ago.
“These events exemplify the Wings Etc. mission and values, which include creating stronger communities and giving back,” Wings Etc. founder Jim Weaver said. “I can think of no better cause than Toys for Tots. The idea that we can be involved and give back to the less fortunate kids is a big deal. It was then and it still is today.”
Wings Etc. gives each player a $5 Wing Nut Bucks coupon. The winning team in each league gets a $175 Wings Etc. gift card, with a $100 gift card for second place; a $75 gift card for third place; and a $50 gift card for fourth place. This year’s toy drive concluded with the December 9 banquet; at that event, Curry hosted a raffle with prizes from around the community to raise $600 toward next year’s campaign.
Weaver expressed his gratitude toward Curry for his hard work in organizing the event and bringing this opportunity to Wings Etc. 10 years ago. “It was just a natural fit,” Weaver said. “Why wouldn’t we want to be involved in that?”
Wings Etc.’s broader effort to give back includes a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the formation in 2023 of the Wings Etc. Foundation. The Wings Etc. Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization administered by leaders in the Wings Etc. Grill & Pub franchise organization and its affiliated companies, with the mission of “improving children’s lives.” See wingsetcfoundation.com.
The Marine Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was created at the behest of the Marine Corps in 1991. To date, they have distributed 652 million toys to 291 million children. See toysfortots.org.