Ron Walters of Great Plains Food Bank, Jason Watkins of the Badlands Big Sticks and FUI agent Kelly Braun pose with the food barrels.

DICKINSON — Blue barrels from Great Plains Food Bank made the rounds throughout western North Dakota this summer, as Farmers Union Insurance worked with three wood-bat league teams to incentivize fans into bringing canned goods to the ballpark.

The Badlands Big Sticks in Dickinson are in their inaugural season and jumped at the chance to help out those hungry in their community.

“It’s a way for us to give back to the community and surrounding areas,” General Manager Jason Watkins said. “It’s something we wanted to do and take pride in. We’re excited to do it.”

Kevin Ressler, chief sales, marketing and brand officer for Farmers Union Insurance, said helping provide food for hungry families is part of FUI’s mission.

“Although we’re in the business of insurance, our mission is to build stronger communities,” he said. “This event along with several others across the state have helped us provide thousands of meals for those in need. What better way is there to help make a community strong then to provide food for the hungry?”

The event was held July 24 at Southside Municipal Ballpark in Dickinson against the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs, a team from Minot that, along with the Bismarck Larks, also hosted events.

Everyone who brought food to donate received a raffle ticket, entering them into drawings for prizes that included Fargo Force hockey tickets. There’s no doubt it worked, as the team typically welcomes around 600 fans every home game. For this event, over 1,000 showed up.

“It’s always good to have some extra incentive,” Watson said.

Farmers Union Insurance is a sponsor for all three wood-bat league teams in western North Dakota. 

Players in wood bat leagues are headed back to college in the fall, as opposed to being semi-professional like minor league teams such as the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, who partnered with FUI to host a food-donation night on Aug. 22 in Fargo.

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU