RALEIGH, N.C. - This weekend will mark a new milestone for the Shaw University softball program.

Shaw University, along with the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance and the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department, will hold its first Shaw University Softball Challenge, which takes place February 15-17 at Walnut Creek Softball Complex.

During the weekend, 28 teams from Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia will come together to challenge each other's skills and abilities.

Shaw University head coach Kimberly Miller created the event to promote the university's softball team after working with Leigh Ann Genetti and Grand Slam, a local baseball/softball training facility.

Miller tossed the idea of hosting a softball challenge out to a few coaches she knew, and "it just blew up and grew from there and that is how the softball challenge started."

While Shaw has already gotten a few games under its belt, many of the team are coming down from colder climates - places where snow is still covering their field.

"A lot of teams from up north like to come down south to play because of the weather," said Miller. "But I didn't think we would get the turnout that we have."

The Lady Bears will face off against schools in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Miller says that about 90 percent of teams from those two leagues are traveling to this weekend's challenge.

In addition, six CIAA schools are taking the opportunity to stage a partial softball roundup to begin conference play.

This weekend isn't just about the softball challenge; it's also about community involvement.

Before the games begin on Saturday morning, 11 teams will participate in community service by teaching girls 14 years and younger the skills required to play softball. The youth clinic is sponsored by Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department.

"We reached out to local middle schools and posted the information about the clinic on our reclink website," said Toni Moyer of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department. "It was important for Raleigh Parks and Recreation to get involved to show the girls that we work with that there are local collegiate fast pitch softball teams in the area."

Moyer says that there are currently about 75 girls ages 8-14 signed up for Saturday morning's clinic. She explained how exciting this is for the Walnut Creek Softball Complex and the opportunities it provides to the youth of the area.

"It not only gives exposure to the softball complex but also exposure for the teams," said Moyer. "This also shows that you can play longer and go past just high school athletics, that youth participating in the clinic can go on to play collegiate softball."

In addition, the Shaw University Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will be raising funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. NCAA's Division II and Make-A-Wish have formed a nationwide partnership with student-athletes raising money and participating in community events to promote the charity.

On Saturday morning, Destiny, a Wake County Make-A-Wish participant with Glut 1 DS, will kick off the action by throwing out the first pitch before the 11:00 a.m. game against Shaw and Lincoln (PA). Destiny's mother is an alumna of Shaw.

The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA), a division of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, is also a sponsor of the softball challenge.

"The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance is thrilled to be a local partner and sponsor of the inaugural Shaw University Softball Challenge this February," said Jason Philbeck, Sports Marketing Manager for the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. "With 25-plus NCAA Division II teams expected to participate from across the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., this event offers a great opportunity to showcase and promote Shaw University, its softball program and the endowed scholarship program."

Philbeck continued, "We look forward to a highly competitive tournament and a great experience for all of the attendees, and we are excited about the potential of the event as an annual collegiate softball showcase of teams from throughout the region."

According to Philbeck, the GRSA "estimates the event will generate approximately $225,000 in direct visitor spending, which helps provide a boost to the local hospitality industry."

"The impact that these teams will have on the Raleigh economy along with the spectators that they will bring will have a significant economic impact," said Moyer.

Philbeck added, "The GRSA looks forward to welcoming the teams and providing visitor information on the abundance of restaurants and attractions that the Raleigh area has to offer. We encourage everyone to check out our website -- www.visitRaleigh.com -- the official online source of visitor information for the Greater Raleigh area."

This event will help showcase the Raleigh area as one of America's top sports destinations. With such a high response from participating schools already there is no surprise that there are already teams wanting to sign up for next year's challenge.

The competition starts Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:00 p.mm and will continue on throughout the weekend. All games will be played at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex, which is located at 1201 Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh.

A full schedule and links to each team's webpage can be found by visiting www.shawbears.com.