Tourney raises thousands for family of late officer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2005

All last week, weather forecasts called for a rainy, windy Saturday. Throughout Friday, cold rain pelted southeast Hampton Roads.

But early Saturday morning, the rain stopped. When Mike Curbelo and his teammates on the C&G Softball team headed to Douglass Park in Portsmouth just before sunrise to prepare the fields for the First (and hopefully annual) Drew Henley Memorial tournament, the grounds were wet, but usable. By the time the games were ready to start, the sun was out – and it stayed in place all day.

Perhaps Henley, who died of a heart defect while on duty as a police officer on March 19 – three weeks to the day before the event – had looked down from his new home and asked Someone to help them out.

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About two weeks ago, Curbelo, an advertising consultant with the Suffolk News-Herald, decided to try to make the Amateur Softball Association’s (ASA) spring opener into a benefit for Henley’s family.

Other local organizations sprung into action. Tony’s Trophies donated the trophies, Morris & Piland gave out T-shirts, Custom Screen Printing handled all the printing, FM 99 donated gift bags and promoted it all week on its shows. The Suffolk YMCA and Weight Loss Forever donated raffle prizes; and the Suffolk News-Herald donated promotion and sponsored a team.

&uot;I have kids of my own,&uot; said Curbelo, who, like Henley, is a father of two and stepfather of two. &uot;I could not imagine what they’d go through if I wasn’t around.&uot;

He brought the matter to ASA Portsmouth commissioner Ed Jones.

&uot;This is a decent thing for a worthy cause,&uot; Jones said. &uot;You never know if you might be put in the same situation. We hope to make this an annual thing and get more teams to participate.&uot;

They came from across Hampton Roads, as four squads from Suffolk and others from Portsmouth, Yorktown, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and other cities showed up. Curbelo’s team was temporarily turned into the Suffolk News-Herald’s squad.

Cliff MacInnis brought the Blasters from Va. Beach.

&uot;We were going to play in another tournament,&uot; MacInnis said, &uot;but this was a good benefit, and we wanted to come out here and show our support.&uot;

Several of Henley’s pals did so as well, as the Suffolk Police Department defeated their city rival Fire Department early in the event.

&uot;(Henley) always laughed and joked around,&uot; said officer Chris Scherer. &uot;If the circumstances were switched, I know he’d be out here in my place. Anytime I get sad, I just think about that big grin of his, and it puts a smile on my face.&uot;

Henley played softball for the Oak Grove Methodist Church team, recalled his widow Chrissy.

&uot;This is great, so great,&uot; Chrissy said. &uot;It’s awesome. It’s a happy day, a good time. It shows what a good guy Drew was. Anytime we get together, we can all talk about Drew and remember him.&uot;

Team Thunder and the Blasters placed first in their respective divisions, and roughly $2,500 was raised.

The night before Henley died, remembered his stepdaughter Alex, &uot;He kissed me goodbye and said he’d see me in the morning.

&uot;He was always on my side,&uot; said the Oakland Elementary student, 10. &uot;He got me out of punishments all the time. I can’t have another dad; he’ll always be dad to me.&uot;