Nine-year-old ballplayer led effort to collect baseball gear for youths in developing countries
By Brian Ladd, Special to UnionvilleTimes.com
President John F. Kennedy once said “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” That thought still rings true today as evidenced by the actions of our latest URA Athlete of the week, Michael Walter-Dillon.
When Michael traveled to the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Md. last August, little did he know it would be a life-changing experience. Nor did he know the impact that day would have on the lives of other, less fortunate children across the world.
It was that fateful day Michael learned that children in impoverished countries try to play baseball without having any equipment. Coming from an area where kids have their own bats, gloves, cleats, new baseballs for every game, catcher’s equipment and where many routinely get private lessons and have outstanding facilities to play in year round, when the 9-year-old heard this, it was hard for him to imagine.
“A man told me that people in poor countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti use crumbled up cardboard for balls and sticks for bats,” Michael said. “There was no way to explain how I felt when I heard that.” After meeting Oriole Advocates representatives at the Ripken World Series, Michael felt he needed to do something to help.
That’s not a new concept that Michael is just beginning to grasp. It’s something his mother, Mary Walter, often reminds him about. “We have explained to him that he is a very fortunate kid,” Walter said, “and we want to instill a sense of service in him. He’s got two bags of baseball equipment. For him, it clicked to give others a chance to play baseball.” Michael set up boxes at Unionville High School baseball and softball clinics and tryouts. Collection containers were also set up at Chadds Ford Elementary school, Hillendale Elementary School, Patton Middle School and Unionville High School. The KAU Little League and the Unionville Recreation Association leagues also placed containers at their fields during their opening weekends in early April.
“Even with all of those groups willing to help, the early returns were dismal. Michael, a third grader at Chadds Ford Elementary, began to get a little discouraged,” his mother explained. “In the first two weeks he only had two boxes of equipment. Michael thought there was no way he was going to even get 10 boxes of equipment.
“Michael persevered and ended up collecting 32 boxes and more than 1,300 pieces of baseball and softball equipment that weighed more than 500 pounds!”
Late Thursday morning, Oriole Advocates representatives met with Michael and picked up the boxes, taking them to their headquarters in Baltimore. Oriole Advocate President Bob Harden was on hand to help load Michael’s boxes. Harden said the equipment is scheduled to be sent to Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. “What has happened,” Harden said, “is that kids are grasping that giving is more important.” That’s something not lost on Michael. “It’s not just a community service,” he said, “It’s global service.”
URA thanks Michael for his “global service” and for taking the time to help those less fortunate and for setting an example for others to follow.