Night out becomes annual 'Ball Crawl'

It seemed like business as usual around Downtown Huntington Beach on a foggy Saturday morning, as residents walked up and down Main Street for their morning walk and a cup of coffee.

But little did the locals know that from the fog would emerge at least 250 people sporting matching T-shirts with a blue mustache and the words "Huntington Beach Ball Crawl" screenprinted on them.

Who are these people? They're Orange County locals raising money for testicular cancer awareness by way of a pub crawl through downtown.

What started off as a bunch of friends looking for something to do on a slow weeknight had turned into a yearly event raising money for a charitable cause.

The group decided to raise money for the Testicular Cancer Society for their 12th pub crawl after a friend of founding member Troy Rossean found out they had testicular cancer, Rossean said.

Past charities include the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Children of Fallen Soldiers and Children's Hospital of Orange County.

"All this stuff that affects you affects everybody at one point or another," Rossean said.

With stacks of "Ball Crawl" T-shirts at $20 a piece waiting to be sold, Mick Gray -- one of the original event founders -- waited in Beachfront 301 at 10 a.m. for pub crawlers to come in.

Though a deejay was spinning his records during the early hours of the morning, no one besides Gray, a few of his family members and the wait staff were there.

Then just 30 minutes later, waves of 15 to 20 people entered the bar and ordered breakfast platters, mimosas and beer to start their morning.

And just before noon Beachfront was filled to the brim with people taking group pictures and dancing to the house music.

"Everyone's in a great mood and you have 300 people moving around together," said Brian Shea, who is on his fifth pub crawl. "It's always been low key, it never gets out of control and everyone's having a good time."

Shea, 54, of Irvine, heard about the pub crawl through his friends that have gone to past events and has tried to attend them as often as possible.

From Beachfront, groups of 50 to 60 people walked to the Aloha Grill. And once they hit capacity there, another set of people would walk to Longboards or Killarney's.

"It started out as a small group it just got gradually bigger and bigger until today," Gray said. 

The first pub crawl started in February 2005 with a group of friends from Huntington Beach, founding member Mike Robertson said.

One of those people — who didn't want to be named — was a coach at a local high school and sold T-shirts to the pub crawlers to raise money for his team.

From there, Rossean and the other founders realized the impact their pub crawl can have on local charities.

Now at each pub crawl, the group will sell T-shirts at $20 each and donate the proceeds to a charity they chose for that year.

The Children's Hospital of Orange County was one of the first charities chosen, after Rossean's nephew was ill and was being treated there.

"He was diagnosed with a pretty severe developmental disorder. No one really knew what he had, so he spent a lot of time in CHOC," Rossean said.

Unfortunately, his nephew died, but the group raised around $6,200 for the hospital in two years.

Last year, the group raised $7,300 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation after Rossean's mother was diagnosed with the disease.

The day's festivities went off without a hitch, with no reported arrests by Huntington Beach Police.

The group said they could have made their events much larger, but have capped attendance out of respect to the bars along Main Street.

"We could have made it huge, but Downtown just couldn't handle more than 300 people," Robertson said.

Robertson and his wife brought along their newborn son, Casey, who sported a "Ball Crawl" onesie, but the family left before things got too hairy.

"It's a reason to come out here and drink and feel good about it and help the community a little bit," Robertson said.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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