Jackson Sparks home run derby fundraiser 'beyond heartwarming'

A family who lost their child in the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade attack is raising money for other children.

The Sparks family put a focus on one of the things 8-year-old Jackson loved most – baseball – at Genesee Town Park. It was their second annual home run derby in his honor.

"Home runs, that’s really the best thing about baseball," said Mac Nicholas, a soon-to-be fourth grader who plays baseball for the Mukwonago Tribe.

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The home runs go well beyond the field, helping make dreams come true. Volunteers and batters alike stepped up to the plate to raise money for children who have gone through hardships.

"Helping out with this derby, it just makes me feel good," said Hailey Helm, a young girl who knew Jackson.

Jackson Sparks

"Kind of like your Make-A-Wish but baseball-themed," said Amy Podgorski, a volunteer and friend of the Sparks family.

It’s all in honor of a player who can’t be here: Waukesha Blazers player Jackson Sparks, the youngest victim of the attack.

"He was just a bundle of joy and energy," Podgorski said.

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"I was at the parade, and it was scary to see it happen," said Waukesha Blazers player Noah Hager.

The 8-year-old is honored on the Blazers’ sleeves and carried in the hearts of countless people.

"It’s cool because they got this patch on your jersey, which is special," Hager said.

"It’s beyond heartwarming, it really is," said Podgorski. "I can’t imagine what the Sparks have gone through, and just to see the community come together for them, it’s just goosebumps. Awesome."

Home run derby fundraiser for the Jackson Sparks Foundation

There was a big show of support for the Sparks family – the Dancing Grannies, K-9 Jackson and even Jackson’s WWE hero made it out to support others.

"It’s nice that Braun Strowman’s here, his favorite WWE superstar," Nicholas said. "That’s just, like, lovely for all these people to be here and honor him."

"Every time I read an article it was like oh my god, that’s me at 8 years old," said Tim Pauly, co-owner of Broken Bat Brewing Co. "I get choked up. He resonated tremendously with me as a dad of three young girls." 

Pauly said he reached out to Jackson's parents and designed a private label beer tying together everything Jackson loved.

Braun Strowman at home run derby fundraiser for the Jackson Sparks Foundation

"We tried to cover all the bases, no pun intended, very happy with how it turned out," he said.

From beers to cheers, it’s a community on the same team – going to bat for a player who won’t be forgotten.

"We’re going to miss you Jackson, and we will remember you for the rest of life," said Nicholas.

All proceeds from the derby go to the Jackson Sparks Foundation, which again grants baseball-related wishes for children going through hardships.