Utica Fireside White Sox Club combines baseball, friendship, charity work

Club has donated more than $60,000 to local organizations

Members of the Utica Fireside White Sox Club pose for a photo at their annual Christmas banquet and auction. The group has raised more than $60,000 for local charities.

Nearly 20 years ago, Bo Windy and five friends went to a Chicago White Sox game “first class.”

“We went up in a limo,” Windy said. “We brought enough beer and food, and I think we fed half the parking lot. We were well supplied.”

That trip planted a seed.

“We got home and I started thinking about it. It was a good group of guys who really enjoyed each other’s company,” Windy said. “I put together several meetings and got their input. I thought maybe this was going to click.”

And thus the Utica Fireside White Sox Club was established. It officially was formed Feb. 2, 2007.

“We were meeting at Canal Port by the fireplace,” Windy said. “We said, ‘Well, we have to come up with a name.’ We came up with a bunch of suggestions. We were sitting by the fireplace, so it became Utica Fireside White Sox Club, and it stuck.”

The six original members were Windy, Ron Chalus, Gary Harmon, Jason Harmon, Joseph Carey and Mark Klinefelter.

The club has 24 members and is looking to add more to get up to its maximum of 30 members.

At its meetings throughout the year, the members discuss the White Sox, but the club also has a heavy charitable presence, raising money for several local organizations.

“Our goal even early when we were just six members was to help kids in need, and it’s been like that ever since,” Windy said. “When we have an opportunity to go see kids at Lighted Way and Friendship Village, that’s where our heart is. We’re going to stay with those people. We like to give them as much as we can.”

Randy Tuftie joined the club about 12 years ago at the invitation of his cousin Chalus.

“He invited me to one of the meetings, and I really enjoyed it, so I joined,” said Tuftie, who is in his third year as treasurer of the club. “It’s a fun group. We discuss the White Sox at our meetings. Not much to talk about this year.

“It’s a great group of guys who do great things for local charities. I’m very proud to be a member of the club.”

Dave Fowler, who is the current president, joined about 15 years ago, also at the invitation of Chalus.

“Ron got me in,” Fowler said. “He knew me from work. He came in one day and I had a White Sox lamp by my desk. We got to talking, he invited me, and the rest is history.”

Fowler said he really has enjoyed the charity aspect of the club.

“We raise money to help kids,” Fowler said about why he’s stayed involved. “We’re helping handicapped kids and underprivileged kids. What better cause can you have than kids?”

The club holds a yearly raffle that has raised more than $60,000 since its inception 15 years ago with funds going to Lighted Way, Friendship Village, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Easter Seals, Ronald McDonald House, Waltham Boy Scouts, United Way and the Illinois Valley Food Pantry.

This year’s raffle winner will be drawn July 24. The top prize is four box seats and a parking pass to the Cubs at White Sox game Aug. 10, with second prize being four box seats and a parking pass to the New York Mets at White Sox game Sept. 1. There also are memorabilia prizes.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased from any club member or by calling Fowler at 815-343-8039 or Tuftie at 815-343-1080.

“When we tell people what we’re doing it for, they really step up,” Tuftie said. “People are really generous about buying tickets.”

At its annual Christmas party, the club collects toys that are donated to the La Salle County Sheriff’s Department for distribution to underprivileged children and has an auction that raises money for local fire departments to purchase lifesaving equipment.

This year’s auction items will include baseballs signed by Bob Gibson and Kevin Costner, an autographed picture, hat and baseball from White Sox prospect and former Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp pitcher Noah Schultz and a hat signed by Caitlin Clark.

“The White Sox donate some items,” Tuftie said. “The Sox were generous enough to donate tickets to a game, which included getting on the field and getting pictures in the dugout. Members donate items. They all sell real well. It’s a big draw.”

The club is looking to add more members. Although it’s called the Utica Fireside White Sox Club, it is open to members from around the Illinois Valley.

“You have to be a loyal White Sox fan,” Windy said. “You can’t be a Cubs fan. If you go to a Cubs game, you’re going to get fined $10. You have to be willing to participate in our fundraisers.”

If interested in joining, call Windy at 815-667-4799.

Members of the Utica Fireside White Sox Club pose with a La Salle County Sheriff's Deputy after donating to a holiday toy drive.
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