Becoming a Little League® volunteer means so much more than just signing up to take the field on game day and coach a group of children. It’s about helping to teach life lessons and build stronger individuals and communities through the game of baseball and softball, and for David Campbell, it also became a way to help one Little Leaguer® battle through a life-threatening experience.
A volunteer coach for Brookfield (Ill.) National Little League, Mr. Campbell has always been focused on providing a memorable Little League experience to kids throughout his community, and eight years ago introduced his neighbor, Maxx Kusper, to the league.
“Coach Campbell has been Maxx’s coach since he first joined the league as a five-year-old, and has always been a constant in our lives,” said Marcey Kusper, Maxx’s mother. “Little League does that to you – it brings you together as teammates and parents, but inevitably those people become family.”
On March 28, 2020, that Little League family was struck with tragedy as 11-year-old Maxx was hit by a train just around the corner from his house, suffering broken bones and a traumatic brain injury. Following a life-saving craniotomy to relieve the swelling on his brain three days after the accident, the Kusper family knew the road to Maxx’s recovery was only just beginning and the first person to step up to the plate to help out was Coach Campbell.
“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the quarantine requirements prevented our family from getting the support and hugs we desperately needed, but Coach Campbell and our Little League family made sure our family felt the love and support in every other way,” said Mrs. Kusper. “They were able to organize the community and blanket the town in Cubby Blue (Maxx’s favorite color), print up signs with Maxx’s picture and number 23 all around town, set up a police escort to welcome him back, and even went as far as having the entire team and coaches shave their heads to show their support for Maxx.”
Knowing that the Little League field was a source of peace and normalcy for the Kusper family, Coach Campbell also made sure to leave the lights to the field on each night, where Maxx’s father, Don, would stop by each night to take time to pray for Maxx and have a quiet moment alone.
After a second brain surgery on June 4, 2020, to replace the right section of the skull that was removed, Maxx began his physical therapy, but it was at the Little League field alongside Coach Campbell and his teammates where he seemed to heal the best.
“Being at the Little League field is where his body continued to heal, but most importantly, it was where his spirit healed,” said Mrs. Kusper. “During his therapy, Coach Campbell told us that there would always be a spot on his team for Maxx and made sure to put the focus more on his recovery than winning any games. That meant the world to us, and we can never repay him for that.”
True to his word, Coach Campbell selected Maxx to be on his team for his final Little League season as a 12-year-old in 2021, where he hit his first home run on the big field and even earned a spot on the all-star team.
“True to life in Little League, our baseball family was there together for their final game on the fields where friends became family and children learned lifelong lessons that will help them become adults,” said Mrs. Kusper. “With the final game over, I was able to hold back my tears until I saw Coach Campbell fighting back his own tears as he gave Maxx a hug. Words did not need to be spoken because Coach Campbell has been so much more than a coach. We will forever be grateful to him for introducing us into this amazing life of Little League and we are all better people because of it.”