Knuckle Ball … A Pitch for Life Gala

The Joe Niekro Foundation hosts its third annual fundraising soiree in Phoenix

The Joe Niekro Foundation hosted its third annual Phoenix Knuckle Ball on Dec. 9 at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. The event raises funds to support brain aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and hemorrhagic stroke patient services and education. The organization was founded by Natalie Niekro, daughter of MLB player Joe Niekro, who lost his life from a cerebral brain aneurysm in 2006.

The gala included silent and live auctions, dinner, a program and after-dinner entertainment by The Groove Merchants.

Among the attendees were several retired professional athletes. Norris Thomas, former professional football player and now a motivational speaker, served as the evening’s emcee. Daniel Moreno, a Phoenix veteran and AVM survivor who has competed on the show American Ninja Warrior, was the keynote speaker. Former MLB player Brett Merriman and his wife, Anita, chaired the event. Anita is a brain aneurysm survivor.

Sponsors included Barrow Brain and Spine, Medtronic, HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehabilitation Hospital and Dignity Health East Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. Funds raised from the evening will be used to expand the organization’s patient services and education program, which currently has 40 support groups across the nation.


Kim and Whitney Davis; Todd and Kristin James

Daniel Moreno and Norris Thomas

Barrow Neurological Institute neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Zabramski

Representatives from HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehabilitation Hospital

After-dinner dancing to music by The Groove Merchants

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