From the Heart of Little League Came Comfort for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy
Called a “super storm,” the “storm of the century” and the “perfect storm,” Hurricane Sandy devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In the wake of the destruction, individuals and communities joined by their Little League ties, banded together to offer aid, comfort and perspective.
See how Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds, 1998 Little League Baseball World Series Champion with Toms River East (N.J.) Little League, reacts to the devasation when he returned to his hometown: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8709615&categoryid=2521705
“Nothing here will be the same again,” Bob Everett, President of Bayville, New Jersey’s Berkeley Little League, said. “We’ve had bad storms here before, but this wasn’t even close.”
For nearly two days, Hurricane Sandy thrashed the Eastern U.S., causing wind damage, flooding and an astonishing assortment of destruction, estimated at more than $50 billion.
Little Leagues in the Hurricane’s path, leagues on the fringe of the storm, and those hundreds of miles from landfall, all endured a gamut of emotions.
In Rochester, N.Y., Penfield Little League (PLL) President Greg Kamp watched the news and followed the Weather Channel as forecasters plotted the direction of the storm. As reports came in, Mr. Kamp began to think about relatives at risk on Long Island, and recalled his league’s run through the state tournament, which was ended by Staten Island’s Great Kills Little League.
“When Sandy hit the New York, tri-state area it was on the news that Great Kills had been hit hard,” Greg, a 13-year PLL board veteran who is in his fifth year as a League President, said. “I made calls to check on family, but I also called and went online to learn if the families of Great Kills Little League were in need.”
In Bayville, damage was severe, while in Rochester, there was no damage, but a powerful desire emerged to assist those in need.
“We were without power for nearly six days and that was the biggest obstacle for people … the lack of electricity,” Bob, in his 10th year as League President, said. “Once we lost power, there was a delayed reaction. No one realized how bad things were.”
Bob explained the storm hit Bayville on Monday, but it was not until Wednesday afternoon when people managed to see the devastation reported on television. Greg had been watching, and knew that the assistance that people in Great Kills were going to need were the “everyday things.”
Berkeley Little League (BLL) in Bayville, N.J., was among the many leagues and communities ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Despite the devastation and destruction sustained throughout the Tri-state area, BLL did its part to provide aid and comport by opening up its concession stand, and providing hot meals to those in need. In Rochester, N.Y., Penfield Little League (PLL) was not impacted directly by the “superstorm,” but it did know of a league that was. In an act of goodwill and generosity, PLL moved quickly to provide financial donations to the Little Leaguers in Great Kills, N.Y., on Staten Island. The donations to Great Kills Little League were made on behalf of all the players and volunteers of Penfield Little League. Earlier in the summer, Great Kills Little League defeated Penfield Little League in the New York State Tournament, but in this time of need, PLL knew helping out was more important than the outcome of a baseball game.
Berkeley Little League and Penfield Little League mobilized their volunteers.
Concession Stand Manager, Michelle Delaney, at Berkeley Little League suggested the league start feeding people out of the concession stand. “In the neighborhoods that hit the hardest, people walked to the BLL complex to get a bite to eat and commiserate,” Bob said. “The first night we feed 50 people. The next night it was 200 … there was a steady flow.”
In Rochester, Greg had managed to connect with members of the Great Kills Little League. Without knowing the full scope of the situation on Staten Island, the PLL board of directors voted to authorize a $1,500 donation to GSLL, and began a relief drive to also make monetary contributions.
Greg found out from the volunteers in Great Kills that the league’s playing facility sustained moderate damage, but the league’s families were in need and had initiated their own hurricane relief effort.
“On the day after the Hurricane, I called Frank Cambria with the Great Kills Little League,” Greg said. “After talking to Frank, I knew providing assistance from our league to theirs was the right thing to do. Life and families are far greater than the game of baseball.”
When told of the PLL donation and forthcoming assistance, Greg said Frank’s first reaction was stunned amazement. Frank said, “Are you kidding me?!”
“This disaster was personal to us” Greg said. “When something like this happens, you typically don’t have a connection, unless you have relatives in harm’s way. This was personal to us, because we knew those guys.”
In Bayville, the Atlantic Ocean spilled into Barnegat Bay, which came within one block of the Berkeley Little League complex. Some bleachers and fencing were damaged and several trees were uprooted, but Bob said, “We were among the lucky ones. Flooding devastated homes, but our league is in good shape.
“The amazing part was the wind and how fast the water came in,” Bob said. “In 15 minutes, the rain water went from a couple of inches to 2-to-3 feet. The wind took down an incredible number of trees, which made it like the Fourth of July when about 600 transformers exploded when limbs fell across power lines.”
According to news reports, Bob said that 22,000 of 24,000 customers in the Bayville area were without power for several days. With homes destroyed and others without electricity in the days after ‘Sandy,” many areas along the East Coast had to endure a second storm when a “Nor-Easter” dumped 6-to-8 inches of wet snow on the already ravaged region.
Throughout the Tri-State area the reconstruction of lives and property is under way. Penfield Little League will continue its mission to raise and donate funds and other materials to Great Kills Little League, while Berkeley Little League has already begun its clean-up and recovery efforts.
“We are not just a sports league, we are a community league,” Bob said, looking at the prospects of rebuilding and moving forward. “Our players, parents and volunteers have pride, and I could not be more proud of our league’s efforts. We will make sure that our children will learn, understand and remember the life lessons taught by this experience.”
“It is my wish that the enduring reminder of ‘Sandy’ will be that we helped a fellow Little League when it was in trouble,” Greg said of Penfield Little League’s efforts. “Under the umbrella of Little League, this was about one community reaching out to another with a helping hand. It was the right thing do.”