LOWELL -- Next month, Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm will host its 15th annual Spirit of Giving Gala, a major fundraiser for the organization that will in part honor Baseball Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley and Boston sports-reporting icon Bob Lobel.

The event's title is "Take Me Out to the Gala," a wordplay on this year's vintage baseball theme.

The event will be held Nov. 4, starting at 6 p.m., at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, 50 East Merrimack St.

"We are going to be transforming into a vintage baseball-themed venue, so it will be fun," said Deedee O'Brien, executive director of Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm. We try to do things differently every year so people are getting a different kind of experience when they're coming to our gala.

Dennis Eckersley
Dennis Eckersley
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Challenge Unlimited uses the power of horseback riding to provide therapy for people with a wide range of physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities.

Eckersley, a six-time All Star, will receive the Spirit of Giving Award. O'Brien said she met Eckersley many years ago at an event and described him as an amazing person.

"He knew somebody who knew somebody, and he came to the event and brought a bag of baseballs and sat with the kids who had disabilities," O'Brien said. "He signed the balls and joked and played with them. He was a magnet for them and he really made their day. ... It was a lifetime memory."

Lobel is receiving the Joann Weber Award, given to a person of courage, caring and generosity where it counts the most, according to the event program.


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Joann Weber was a co-owner, with husband Drew Weber, of the Lowell Spinners until her death in 2006. Drew Weber established the award in her memory.

Regarding Lobel, a notice of the event reads, "While we applaud his amazing career, more important to Ironstone is Bob's generous use of talent and celebrity to support charitable causes throughout New England, including Children's Hospital, the Genesis Fund and others whose missions align with ours in helping children with disabilities."

O'Brien said the gala will have a sponsor-a-child auction for attendees, in which money will be raised to sponsor children in the program that she and staff wouldn't otherwise be able to accommodate.

"It's a huge thing for us to be able to open that door," she said.

Bob Lobel
Bob Lobel

Nancy Greeley, who sits on the board of directors of Challenge Unlimited and co-chairs the Spirit of Giving Event Committee, said she fell in love years ago with the work Ironstone Farm does. The Andover resident said she drove by the farm many times before realizing that the farm is much more than a private horse-riding farm, but one that does so much good for so many children.

"I'm amazed that there's many people who live here locally that don't understand what Ironstone Farm is, so every year I think it's great that we touch more people and educate them on what we do," Greeley said. "It's amazing to witness the milestones people make coming to the farm."

Dinner will be catered by Lenzi's, and music provided by Jon Abrams & His Billy Joel Rock 'N' Roll Show.

Formal attire required, but baseball-themed ties and accessories are encouraged.

For more information on "Take Me Out to the Gala," call O'Brien at 978-502-0916. Tickets can be purchased at mktix.com/chu.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.