ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals fell short in their efforts to advance to the postseason for a sixth straight season, it was another banner year off the field in 2016 as the Cardinals made an impact on the St. Louis community.
No initiative raised more money for Cardinals Care, the organization's philanthropic arm, than the 50/50 raffle. That raffle, a fixture during home games, generated over $665,000, half of which benefited Cardinals Care directly. Among the initiatives those funds supported was the organization's Grant Program, which distributed over $300,000 to 145 non-profit groups that work with local children.
Other fundraising events to benefit Cardinals Care included the mid-September 6K and One Mile Fun Run, which featured over 750 participants, and the 27th annual Ted Savage RBI Golf Classic. That June golf event raised proceeds to benefit the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) program in St. Louis. Those funds also helped Cardinals Care offset its annual $50,000 contribution to RBI and the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club.
Another $95,000 was raised for Cardinals Care through the Busch Stadium auctions, which took place at every Tuesday and Friday home game.
One of the most notable projects undertaken by Cardinals Care this year was the construction and dedication of its 22nd youth ballfield. The newest facility, which is located at Bob Russell Park, opened in August and was named after Adam Wainwright.
The organization's ongoing Redbird Rookies program featured 19 leagues and approximately 4,000 participants in 2016, and nearly one-fourth of those participants attended a health fair that Cardinals Care sponsored in late July. Another 4,000 children participated in the Redbird Rookie Readers, which promoted summer reading at area library branches.
Player-driven initiatives were plentiful, too, in 2016. The most wide-reaching was Big League Impact, Wainwright's non-profit organization established to provide basic needs and resources to people around the world. Wainwright's fantasy football event, which spread to eight Major League cities this year, raised money for local charities, as well as Operation Food Search, Crisis Aid International and Cardinals Care.
Wainwright, who was named the organization's Roberto Clemente Award nominee for his work in the community, was also involved in the Cardinals' Player Ticket Program. Wainwright, Stephen Piscotty, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal each met with groups of underserved youth from the area before six home games and then provided those children with tickets to the game.
Rosenthal extended his commitment by also making a donation to each of the participating organizations based on the number of strikeouts he totaled.
Throughout the season, players made frequent visits to local children hospitals to deliver gifts and well wishes. The team's largest such initiative came in early August, when six players -- Wainwright, Greg Garcia, Jedd Gyorko, Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong and Tommy Pham -- brought Build-A-Bear teddy bears to children undergoing treatment at one of four area hospitals.
The Homers for Health program, which started in 2012, was backed by Wainwright, Rosenthal, Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter this year. Through the initiative, fans pledged a donation to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital based upon how many strikeouts and/or home runs the team registered during the season.
Cardinals wives also stepped up in helping to raise $65,000 through their four grab bag events at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals will cap their 2016 charitable efforts in mid-December with their annual Cardinals Care holiday party. Children who are affiliated with several area non-profit groups and/or the Redbird Rookies program will be invited to the event.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.