Chadds Ford student works to help poor kids play baseball

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Pictured left to right: Erin Moore, Unionville HS softball Bob Harden, Oriole Advocates Mark Ransford, Chadds Ford Elementary School principal Zachary Lindner, KAU baseball Tyler Fries, Unionville HS baseball Michael Walter-Dillon Kyle Fries, Unionville HS baseball Marlene Doherty, KAU Procurement Officer with the some 500 pounds of baseball gear collected.

CHADDS FORD — Baseball may well be the next global game and a local third grade student is his part to make sure that disadvantaged kids elsewhere will have the gear they need to play the sport.

Last week, members of the Baltimore Orioles Advocates came to the home of Michael Walter-Dillon, a nine-year-old third grader at Chadds Ford Elementary School, to pick up nearly 500 pounds of new and good used baseball and softball equipment that Michael collected for the Advocates’ “Cardboard to Leather” program. The collected equipment will be shipped by the Advocates to boys and girls in developing countries who want to learn how to “play ball.”

When he found out that the childhood realities of youngsters in poorer nations mean, at best, making due with little or no equipment, he said he wanted to do something about it.

“When I learned that kids in Nicaragua, or Venezuela, or Haiti were using crumpled up cardboard for baseballs and sticks for bats, I just can’t explain how it made me feel,” he said “So I wanted them to have the chance to learn and play baseball the way I do. I guess what I did isn’t really community service, it is global service.”

The collection netted a variety of equipment and uniforms–aluminum baseball and softball bats, gloves, cleats, uniform pants, catchers’ gear, baseballs and softballs, bases, and equipment bags. There are enough unused uniform shirts, caps, and socks to outfit at least 15 entire teams of 15 members!

Helping Michael load the equipment onto the truck were members of the various local organizations and schools that provided unprecedented cooperation for his community service project. The Unionville High School baseball and softball teams collected gear at their tryouts and clinics. Collection containers were placed at Chadds Ford Elementary School, Hillendale Elementary School, Patton Middle School, and Unionville High. Both the KAU Little League and the Unionville Recreation Association baseball leagues placed collection containers at baseball fields during opening weekend in early April. 

Representing the Orioles Advocates will be Bob Harden, president of the organization.

Although Michael is a diehard Phillies fan whose favorite player is Chase Utley, he committed to this community service project after he attended the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, MD, last summer and met members of the (Baltimore) Orioles Advocates. This is not his first foray into community service. Last year, he led the “Change Can Make a Difference” community service project at CFES. Students donated more than $1000 to provide school supplies and temporary classrooms for children who were displaced by the earthquake in Haiti.

Michael said he has received unprecedented cooperation from many people and organizations in our surrounding area. The local high school baseball and softball teams collected at their tryouts and clinics. Collection containers were allowed to be put in four schools in the district and at local baseball fields. And a local little league organization cleaned out its old equipment and uniforms.

He ended up with about 500 pounds of uniforms and equipment in his mom’s kitchen, and there were enough uniforms–caps, socks, and jerseys–to outfit about 10 baseball and softball teams…more than 150 jerseys, more caps than that, hundreds of pairs of baseball socks, sets of bases, at least 10 full sets of catchers gear.

Michael said that the Orioles now have replaced the Cubs as his second favorite team and that he would like to meet Cal Ripken someday since he plays in a Ripken baseball league (URA).  He also said that he would like to be able to travel to the country where the equipment in going just so he could see the looks on the kids faces.

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