When LIU-Brooklyn encountered Wagner College on the softball field years ago, the Blackbirds’ coach Roy Kortmann remembers one of that opponent’s players well.
“Ami Iwicki was tough for us to get out,” says Kortmann, now in his 26th season at Long Island University. Much has changed since those 2005-‘08 seasons. Iwicki is the lead instructor at Diamond Nation’s Softball Academy and Kortmann’s team, since merged with LIU-Post, is now the Sharks.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Kortmann’s desire to reach out and help a neighbor in need. He and his LIU team has often taken up a cause and most recently devised a plan to deliver meals to patients battling cancer. That gave birth to Our Treat.org, an all-volunteer organization spearheaded by the Kortmann family.
LIU’s softball team was on a seven-game winning streak when the 2020 season was halted and then canceled due to the spread of COVID-19. But Kortmann and Our Treat have taken advantage of the down time to switch gears a bit and direct their resources and talented staff to delivering meals to those on the front line of the pandemic.
During his fundraising efforts, Kortmann reached out to Iwicki.
“I’ve known Ami for many years from coaching against her and clinics we’ve done at Diamond Nation,” says Kortmann. “We became good friends. I spoke to her one day about Our Treat and she wanted to get the Finch’s Aces involved.”
Iwicki said the Aces reached out for donations and raised more than $500 to direct toward efforts made by Our Treat. “Without softball, we’ve had time to focus on our fundraising efforts,” says Kortmann. “As a result, we expect to have 1,000 meals delivered through the end of May.”
For Iwicki and the Aces, helping Kortmann help others was an easy choice.
“We just wanted to help out with a great cause that Roy was deeply involved in,” said Iwicki. “Our girls put out a great effort. This is a tough time for everyone and we wanted to do our part.”
Our Treat truly is a family-first charitable organization and an impressively well-tuned volunteer operation. Kortmann, his wife, Monica, son Conor, three daughters, Shannon, Kerrie and Fallon Szczur and son-in-law Tom Szczur, have clearly defined roles in the organization that utilizes their unique talents.
“It’s kind of a family affair,” says Kortmann. “Fortunately my kids are a lot smarter than I am. They are real good with social media and get Our Treat out there and make it pretty relevant. And Monica is real good working with families.” Monica Kortmann is support coordinator for Neighbours, Inc. NJ, an organization that aids individuals with developmental disabilities.
Kerrie works in season and group sales for the Phillies, Conor is an assistant baseball coach at Babson College in Boston, Fallon is the communications manager for a large law firm in New York City, Tom Szczur works in corporate development, and Shannon is media planning coordinator for a company in New York. Team Kortmann has formed a naturally cohesive unit that can’t help but succeed, mirroring the coach’s 10 conference championship teams.
“In the last month or so, with the virus, we’ve been delivering to first responders, nurses, doctors, people on the front line,” says Kortmann. “It started with Ami and the Aces. We just delivered to Capital Health in Trenton.”
That experience, while important to the front line workers, has been extremely rewarding for Our Treat. “I can’t explain the feeling when we deliver meals,” says Kortmann. “The excitement and thankfulness of the staff is amazing.”
Anyone who has had a death in the family and has experienced the kindness of a family member or friend bringing food can relate to what Our Treat initiated in its plan to aid cancer patients.
“We were discussing in 2019 ways to impact someone battling cancer,” says Kortmann. “We thought about how overwhelmed families are and how a meal can relieve some of that stress. It gives the family a mutually agreed upon time around the dinner table, hopefully laughing and having fun.”
In what can be described as a thoughtful touch, Our Treat doesn’t leave the meal selection to chance. “Monica calls the families and finds out what they would like,” says Kortmann. “Remember, someone battling cancer may have specific dietary restrictions.”
The Our Treat team has developed a relationship with local restaurants, creating a variety of choices in their desire to perfectly satisfy each family’s taste buds.
“The volunteer meal deliveries to both cancer patients and frontline COVID-19 workers, “has really given our softball team and Our Treat a connection with the community,” says Kortmann.
Conor Kortmann, in fact, is setting up a family in Boston at this moment for a meal delivery, says Kortmann.
Roy Kortmann has had remarkable success at Long Island University. His 2020 team finished the season on that 7-0 tear before the shutdown and gave their coach his 700th career victory on March 11 in a win over Cleveland State.
“I played against him in college then we had him in to train our girls in the winter when I was coaching the Aces,” says Iwicki. “I learned a lot from his drills coaching techniques.”
His success is partly derived from an ability to adjust on the run.
“When I first started here, it was a little difficult to get kids from the metropolitan area to come into New York City and Brooklyn in particular” says Kortmann. “We started recruiting from further out where we discovered those kids thought it was a cool idea to come to the city. It’s like no other school in the country.”
LIU now has a lineup that consists of 13 players from California, one from Oregon and one from Texas.
Excellent coaching and recruiting has brought Kortmann and LIU perennial powerhouse in downtown Brooklyn. The Sharks have won 10 (1999, 2000, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’07, ‘08 ’10, ’12, ’16) Northeast Conference championships and 10 appearances in the NCAA College World Series. Additionally, LIU has earned 10 NEC Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
Kortmann provides his softball players with a book that offers a compilation of things, including contributing thoughts from alumni.
“The first page of the book has a quote that says, “The most important thing you can do in life is make a positive impact on someone else’s life.”
Kortmann says, “Someone once told me you can’t buy happiness, but try giving some away and see what happens.”
To donate to Our Treat’s effort to bring meals to cancer patients and our frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19, click here: https://www.ourtreat.org/donations.html.