THE BEN EVENT
Since 2010, on the third weekend of July, Macungie Memorial Park is home to The Ben Event, a celebration of the life of Ben “Hey, I know you!” Yorgey. People of all descriptions from across the Lehigh Valley unite for fun and fellowship.
This year’s activities began July 20 with a special athletics softball game. A fun walk preceded the limo arrival and public recognition of this year’s Yorgey Foundation scholarship winners. Later, music was provided by the Large Flowerheads.
The festivities continued July 21 with attendees cheering on their favorite participants in age appropriate races and the Bear Swamp miniature car derby. Other activities included breakfast in the park, Ben’s block party, a petting zoo and a special athletics swim meet.
As described on its website, the Yorgey Foundation “… honors Ben’s legacy by raising funds for graduating high school students with intellectual disabilities across the Lehigh Valley and beyond.” To date, 131 special needs graduates have received Yorgey Foundation scholarships. The foundation’s mission is, in the words of Ardyth Yorgey, Ben’s mother, “…an outworking of what we lived.”
As the Yorgeys discovered, most services to assist intellectually disabled children end when the children graduate from high school. To help families cope with this sudden, and often very difficult, transition, the Yorgey Foundation presents scholarships to recipients which they may use as they and their caregivers see fit. This is a gift with no strings attached.
And, like Ben Yorgey, whose death at age 24 inspired The Ben Event, the weekend celebration which honors the year’s scholarship recipients, is loaded with fun, fellowship and a warm welcome for everyone. Although Ben made friends wherever he went, his parents had no concept of the extent of his influence until the day of his funeral.
They expected between 400 and 500 people to attend the services. The crowd of approximately 1,200 took them by surprise. Ben’s popularity deeply touched the Yorgey family. In addition, according to Kent Yorgey, Ben’s father, “… all the people that knew him [Ben] made starting the foundation easy.” People not only recognized Ben; they responded to his trademark “Hey, I know you” with the same warmth he emanated. Perhaps the best description of Ben was supplied by the mother of one of his friends from the Special Olympics who, according to Ardyth Yorgey, explained Ben’s effect on others as “…in your face delicious!”
Ben Yorgey never met a stranger and his openness touched everyone he encountered. His glow is reflected in the event that bears his name. Nine years after his death, Ben Yorgey continues to bring folks together and to make friends.
Editor’s Note: Additional photos are on Page A6 and will be in next week’s edition.