As I walked into the high school gym with Coach Anton Jones by my side, I was amazed at what had already been accomplished in so little time.
There were a surprising number of teenage volunteers for this being the first Monday morning of Christmas vacation. You’d think they’d be sleeping in. Some were organizing sporting equipment, others were packing and sealing boxes, and some had taken a break to dig into the boxes of pizzas spread across a long table.
Over the past few weeks, donations of used sporting equipment had trickled in and filled the overflow gym. Now that school was out, all the remaining donations arrived in trucks and trailers from where kids had stored them in their garages for a few days.
The team of volunteers had spread everything out in the large gym, dividing equipment into groups—all the footballs together with shoulder pads and helmets; the baseball bats, gloves, and balls; the volleyballs; the basketballs; soccer balls and shin guards; etc. There were even donated cleats and practice jerseys and uniforms. I looked around in awe.
I found Trina standing by the pizza table looking exhausted but resigned to the need for a break and a bite to eat. We headed in her direction and her eyes widened when she saw me and my coach.
“Hey, Trina,” I said. “This is my friend Anton Jones. He’s the owner of Strike Zone where I work out with my batting cages.”
“Hi, Mr. Jones.” Trina rubbed her hands along her jeans to wipe off the pizza grease and stuck out her right hand to shake his.
“Trina, I understand you’re the young lady who started this whole project.” Anton’s tone was complimentary. “What you’ve done here is very impressive.”
“Thank you, sir.” She brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face, tucking it back into its ponytail. “It’s sort of gotten the better of me.”
“I understand you raised several thousand dollars to ship all the equipment to the Ivory Coast.”
“Yes, the community was very generous with donations to the silent auction and most of the student body bought tickets to the dance.”
“I’d like to cover the remaining cost for shipping,” Anton said.
Trina almost fell over. Her boyfriend, Matt’s arms encircled her from behind, holding her up, causing one of his crutches to clank to the gym floor. I stepped over to lift the crutch off the floor and tucked it back under Matt’s arm.
“Your hard work should not be in vain,” Anton said. “I want you to box this all up and get it ready to be shipped, and when it’s time, whatever you can’t afford to ship, I’ll make up the difference.”
“Thank you so much, Mr. Jones.” Trina pulled away from Matt and threw herself right into Anton’s arms, her emotions overflowing. This had been the last big hurdle to overcome, and Coach Jones had answered the call.
Other kids gathered around to see what was going on, and Trina pulled away, tears streaming down her face.
“We did it, you guys!” Trina called out. “Mr. Jones has donated the rest of the money we needed. All of this stuff is going to Africa!” There were enthusiastic cheers and applause and high fives around the room.
Trina turned back to Matt and wrapped her arms around him, nearly knocking him down. Thankfully Dylan was standing beside him and kept him from losing any more crutches.
“Thank you for all your help, and for believing in me and not letting me get discouraged,” Trina said to her boyfriend.
“You’re welcome,” he spoke close to her ear. “Your sweet idea inspired a whole community.”
While the two of them were having a sappy moment together, a couple kids from the football team lifted a box of packing peanuts and dumped them on Trina’s head like a jug of Gatorade on their coach after a winning game.
That started a packing peanut war that ended with bits of Styrofoam strewn from one end of the gym to the other. A little fun reprieve before everyone got back to work.