It’s joyful to see these kids develop a sense of confidence and teamwork. They need these positive influences in their lives.
Pat grew up in Durham and has lived in North Carolina all her life. She works at Duke Community Service Center and handles finances. She is a big baseball fan, and that's what her story is all about. Myra Blackwell, Vice President of the Long Ball Program that Pat oversees, will join her on the cruise.
Starting in 2008, Pat had been involved with Durham's Parks & Rec'sRec's Baseball program initially as an assistant coach on her then 14-year-old's baseball team. The program was designed to provide an athletic league for Durham's inner city youth and give them a positive outlet to learn team work, athletic skills, and responsibility. Due to budget constraints in 2009, the program was canceled. This is where Pat took over.
Now the program has 120 players, 24 coaches, and an administrative staff, but 2009 was "The Season That Almost Wasn't." Pat reached out everywhere to keep it alive. She met with Pat O'Connor, President of Minor League Baseball. He agreed to sponsor the program under one condition. The players in the 13-18 year-old league had to be in school in order to play. Minor League Charities provided funding for the baseball fields, bought caps and shirts for the teams, provided some equipment, and donated an additional $1000 for their year-end banquet. Chevy Youth Baseball donated money for cleats, bats, and balls, and others contributed to keep the program strong.
The program has taken on a life of its own thanks to the support of Minor League Charities. Pat and Myra took 35 kids to a clinic at the Kansas City Royals minor league stadium, and now coaches from Duke and various minor league teams are helping out. Says Pat: "We provide more than baseball. The kids now understand the importance of an education. Two kids who dropped out returned to school so they could play. Others have gone on to play in college. It's a big boost for the kids' confidence."