When Hall of Famer Dot Wilkinson decided to help raise funds for Hospice of the Valley, she did what she’s always done best: get her hands on a ball. Wilkinson, a title-winning softball player and bowler, agreed to autograph 100 softballs for $20 each. Fans from around the world jumped at the chance to own a small piece of sporting history.
Wilkinson, 92, was happy to support nonprofit Hospice of the Valley after the agency cared for her partner of 48 years, Estelle “Ricki” Caito, in 2011. Humble to a fault, Wilkinson was stunned by the response to her autograph offer.
Wilkinson achieved national fame decades ago as a softball player and bowler. On the field, she was a catcher for the PBSW Ramblers that won three national titles. Wilkinson and Caito met playing softball in 1960s and were both named to the National Softball Hall of Fame. As a bowler, Wilkinson won a Triple Crown event and earned a place in the WIBC Hall of Fame. The couple settled into a quiet neighborhood in the South Mountain area and ran a successful real estate business together.
Wilkinson has never traded on her name, always giving away her autograph to anyone who asked. But when friend and Phoenix-based author Lynn Ames suggested the fundraiser, Wilkinson was game.
Ames saw the benefits of hospice first-hand when her mother received hospice care out of state. A longtime Hospice of the Valley supporter, she spread the word about the fundraiser on her popular Facebook page and orders started rolling in.
Wilkinson signed 102 balls. Ames, who handled the arrangements, made an additional donation for a total of $3,000 raised. The donation was made in honor of both Caito and of Ames’ mother, Beverly.