For the first time in more than three years, Brent and Kelly King returned to the park where their daughter Chelsea was attacked and murdered. But their visit was a stark contrast to those painful days in 2010. NBC 7's Chris Chan reports on the emotional event.
The Southern California baseball community united on Sunday for the annual “Home Run for Chelsea” baseball tournament held in honor of slain Poway teen Chelsea King.
The one-day charity baseball tournament raises money for the Chelsea’s Light Foundation, a local organization spearheaded by the King family that aims to make a positive difference in the lives of youths and protect children.
"The sport of baseball is special to our family and some of Chelsea's favorite memories were of watching her brother Tyler pitch. She would encourage him on every pitch, whether it was a ball or a strike!" Chelsea’s father, Brent King, said in a statement.
"It's our hope that the players will keep score in a different way at this tournament and realize that while they are experiencing the joy of baseball, they are also helping Chelsea's Light protect children in California and beyond. Our goal with this event is to have the community join us in bringing positive memories to each park through the love of baseball and the sense of community," King continued.
On Sunday, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., baseball teams from all over Southern California gathered simultaneously at eight separate locations, including Del Norte High School, Poway High School and Rancho Bernardo Community Park, to play ball. More than 60 volunteer umpires supervised the games.
The Chelsea’s Light Foundation teamed up with Super Series West, Southern California Little Leagues and PONY Baseball to orchestrate the student athlete event, which included teams from San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles Counties.
At Rancho Bernardo Community Park – the site where 17-year-old Chelsea disappeared on February 25, 2010, after going for an after-school run – thousands gathered in support of the 2013 “Home Run for Chelsea” event.
The park was filled with baseball, live music, activities, food and raffles throughout the day.
Organizers say this year’s tournament celebrated the “taking back” of the park that was once filled with tragic memories of Chelsea’s disappearance and death.
Chelsea’s body was discovered on March 2, 2010 in the Lake Hodges area, several days after her disappearance. Chelsea had been kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed by John Gardner, who also confessed to killing 14-year-old local Amber Dubois, who went missing in February 2009.
The violent murders of both teens shook the San Diego community to its core.
Since the murder of Chelsea, her parents have been active in the San Diego community through their foundation and events like “Home Run for Chelsea.”
Last year, more than 1,500 student athletes ages five to 14 participated in the baseball tournament, which raised more than $50,000 for the Chelsea’s Light Foundation.
To find out more about the baseball tournament, click here.