Quad-Cities River Bandits owner Dave Heller can think of 100,000 reasons the amusement rides at Modern Woodmen Park benefit the community.
Heller presented the largest check the Midwest League club has ever given to a charitable cause on Wednesday, a $100,000 donation to the Genesis Health Services Foundation to help fund several health initiatives for children in the Quad-City area.
The gift benefits the Flu-Free Quad-Cities program, Camp Genesis for youths in families dealing with cancer, the Genesis Family Connects program and Genesis neonatal intensive care services.
The $100,000 includes all proceeds from the 23,000 rides fans took on the Genesis Kidz Koaster at River Bandits games last summer as well as 50 cents from each of the 88,000 rides fans took on the Ferris wheel, Drop-N-Twist, River Rocker, bumper cars and kiddie train at the Davenport stadium last year.
Heller and his business partner, Roby Smith, kicked in additional funds to round the total presented to Missy Gowey, executive director of the Genesis Health Services Foundation, to an even $100,000.
"One of the most important things we do is give back to the community, and the fun people have on the amusements at Modern Woodmen Park is helping us help the Quad-Cities," Heller said.
Ridership on the Kidz Koaster, part of the $1.5 million in new attractions that opened last season, exceeded expectations.
"We love that because every penny goes back into helping make the community better, healthier and stronger," Heller said. "That’s why we are glad to be a part of it."
Since the Ferris wheel opened, the River Bandits have donated $250,000 to the Genesis Foundation, and Heller said the program will continue into the 2018 season and beyond.
Gowey said the donation helps the community in a number of ways.
For example, the flu shots that 9,000 Quad-City area elementary school-aged children received this school year at no charge cost $19 apiece.
"Donations from the River Bandits and from people who give $100 or give money to support one shot all make a difference in the health of our community," Gowey said. "We are blessed to have a continuing relationship with the River Bandits organization that helps make what we do possible."
The River Bandits were recognized in October by Ballpark Digest for the second time in three years for having the best charity program in all of minor-league baseball.
"It’s a big part of what we do as a part of this community," Heller said.