Event raises money for Special Olympics, debuts safety initiative in Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon

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The friendly jabs resonated across the diamond.

“When was the last time you ran?” a winded softball player was asked as he legged out a single.

“That could have been a triple, if you’d changed your gait up just a little bit,’’ another was told as he stood safely on second base.

The participants, police officers and friends from Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon, couldn’t help but have fun at the expense of teammates and foes as they got a good bit of exercise for a cause.

The Badges ’n’ Bats event was Aug. 13 at Mt. Lebanon’s Main Park, raising money to help benefit Special Olympics Allegheny County while announcing a new safety initiative in the two participating municipalities.

Allstate Insurance Co., which sponsored the event and donated $10,000 toward Special Olympics, has supplied Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon with customized devices to gauge the speeds of passing vehicles.

“We asked about their safety needs,” said spokeswoman Julia Reusch.“The No. 1 thing they hear most is that people are speeding through the community.”

Mt. Lebanon Deputy Chief Aaron Lauth, who served as his team’s pitcher, agreed.

“Our main complaint we have is traffic issues in our town, mostly with vehicles speeding through residential areas,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t realize how fast they're going.”

The devices, one of which was stationed next to Main Park along Cedar Boulevard during to the event, also compiles data on vehicle speeds and volume for use by police departments.

They also serve as marquees, displaying messages for motorists. On game day, for example, one of the devices was outside Bethel Park’s Millennium Park, where Badges ’n’ Bats originally was scheduled, telling of the change of venue because of heavier rain earlier that day. The safety devices for Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park represent the first that Allstate has provided to municipalities.

“We are starting with these two, and we’ll see how it goes,” Ms. Reusch said.

The police departments and Allstate are collaborating on another safety-awareness event on Oct. 3, during the high school football game at Bethel Park vs. Mt. Lebanon. The insurance company will provide its Reality Rides simulated driving experience, featuring a stationary vehicle equipped with virtual reality technology, including a curved LED television embedded in the car windshield.

Several local Special Olympics athletes participated in Badges ’n’ Bats, including Alex Reder of Mt. Lebanon, who carried a symbolic torch around the bases prior to the game.

The event raised $2,100 in addition to Allstate’s donation, with additional contributions from both police departments, Bruster’s Ice Cream, a raffle, cash donations during the game, and proceeds from the Main Park concession stand.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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