The day has finally arrived. The 800 lbs of baseball, softball, and soccer equipment that we gathered in Greenup, IL is officially gone! It is currently being loaded onto a semi trailer that is bound for a Maryland shipping yard. It will then be placed onto a barge where it will sail to Montenegro and then be trucked to Belgrade in middle October. This result couldn’t have taken place without the kindness and generosity of regular citizens. I listed EVERYONE that played a part in this remarkable feat at the bottom of the page. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! Watch the video I made about all the equipment…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCyeu6c-4tQ
This idea popped into my head after watching my buddies from Gradnulica Beckerek play a baseball game. I was stunned when they had to go over and ask the opposing team to borrow a baseball bat!! Also… only a couple of the kids had baseball cleats!!! I thought of all the baseball gear that I had owned as a child. Most of it I used once or twice and disregarded. The average American household is not filled with endless streams of money like many people around the world like to think. We struggle with house payments, car payments, property taxes, high food prices, etc……. BUT, One thing I have noticed after living in Mexico and Serbia is we do have more LUXURY items than most other countries. I can remember having around 6 pairs of baseball cleats, 5 or 6 baseball gloves, ENDLESS amounts of baseballs, every new video game console that came out onto the market , etc. Many of these items I used a few times and stuffed them into the closet. This is not the case in many countries around the world. I found it interesting that in Serbia it is not considered rude to talk about your income. I was invited to many of my friends homes and got to meet their parents. They would tell me their monthly income and I would try to keep my jaw from dropping in dismay. How ANYONE could support a family with shelter, food, clothing, etc on $400 a month is beyond me!!! I heard this same story from numerous people throughout Serbia. That old saying about “not appreciating what you have” is so true! After seeing the kids ask the other team for a baseball bat… i wanted to ask ” Why the hell don’t you buy your own!” Then you think back to the $400 a month family income!!! A baseball bat is the LAST THING this family needs to be purchasing. The idea hit me!! I would contact my local newspapers in Toledo, Greenup and Charleston, IL.
September of 2011 the Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press and Charleston Times Courier published my story about Serbia and my desire to help bring unused sports equipment to the kids. The second it hit the papers my Facebook and email were flooded with requests from people who wanted to assist in gathering it, storing it, moving it, etc. I was blown away! Businesses, family members, friends, community members and total strangers were offering their help. My mom emailed me and said ” Where the hell are we going to put all this stuff! ” hahahaha… I should have informed them first. They are in the midst of building a new home and fighting some medical issues. They didn’t need the added stress of dealing with this big project. It is really hard to start something like this in your hometown community while you are on the other side of the ocean in Serbia! hahaaha..It stressed me out to no end. I would get updates from my mother on how many things were there. I would look up shipping prices on the internet and would shudder when I saw the prices!!! I thought to myself…. “THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY WE CAN GET THIS OVER THERE!” I was depressed and thinking what I would tell the kids, the community that gathered it , etc.. 😦 A couple great people donated some funds to help store it, move it, and help pay for the shipping BUT we were looking at THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS! The US embassy in Belgrade contacted me offering assistance with shipment if I could get it to the Ohio military base. They just needed weights, dimensions, etc. The problem was so much of it had not been delivered so i had no idea how many packages or what the weights were. I finally decided to go back the USA on May 29th of this year. I wanted to see how my mother was doing and help with the construction of their new home. I made manyyyyyyy phone calls, sent many emails, etc while at home to try to make something happen. I posted the email addresses for the guys at the US and Serbian embassies on my Facebook page with a message to all my friends to email them and ask for assistance. It wasn’t long before both embassies had contacted me asking me to please have the emails stop!! ahahahah… The gentleman at the Serbian Consulate was the BEST!!! He said that he found a Serbian/American businessman that loved my devotion to the kids of Serbia and said he would pay for all of the shipping! I just needed to get it to Chicago!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! This was exactly what I wanted to hear!!!! I packaged it all up and contacted my Chicago Serb buddy, Danijel Vukosavljevic.
He owns a trucking company in Chicago called P&D transport.inc He was more than happy to drive the 3.5 hours down to my parents and pick up the equipment and drop it off at the storage facility! WHEW!!!! My blood pressure dropped a few points! 🙂 The best part about this….. the Serbian/American businessman is willing to continue paying the shipping for any donated items to his home country. I want to do more!!! This doesn’t have to end. I had some Serbian kids contact me about tennis equipment and rowing equipment too. OH!!!!! We will have one more shipment late this year or next year. My WONDERFUL cousin and her husband wrote me asking if I would be in need of 60 sets of American football pads and 50-60 football helmets! I told them that we would love to have them. The Serbian consulate asked me to assist them in locating more of it because they do not have the funds for this type of equipment and many teams are in need! I posted something about this equipment on my Facebook page and had 7 teams contact me asking for the equipment! THERE IS A LOT OF NEED!
I am very interested in starting a non-profit organization that would solicit used sports equipment for Serbia. Baseball, soccer, basketball, rowing, tennis, water polo, etc… maybe even help build sports facilities in some of the smaller towns. If anyone has any information about starting a non-profit in the state of Illinois let me know! This would let larger businesses and more people donate because they could write it off their taxes. 🙂 DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T DO SOMETHING!!!! 🙂
This goes to show that regardless of our governments past and current strife….the regular citizens can unite for a good cause!!!
Thanks to all of the following individuals that helped make this a success. Aqua Air deserves special mention!!! Milos was my contact and was so helpful and friendly. The owner, Mr Jovan Babic has a special place in his heart for his country. He is paying the thousands in transport charges! Milos Bajic is a very proud Chicago Serb. He donated 4 boxes of soccer gear for the Zrenjanin soccer team!!! Love you man!! I hate making a list because there is always someone I forget. A GREAT BIG THANKS TO JORDAN MOSER!! He is a very kind young man that wanted to donate his VERY nice equipment bag and equipment!! YOU ROCK!! Here are the rest that helped make it happen:
The Serbian Consulate in Chicago,Tasha Shaffer, Jordan Moser, Shay Shaffer,Gary Hasgen, Gerry and Dordina Mixon, Amy Polic, Karen Blade, Danijel Vukosavljevic, Amanda Black, Dan and Julie Ponce Brandon Miller, Adam Fifield, June Hayden, Jenny Morgan, Pilson Auto Center, P&D transport.inc, JK Mitchell, Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press, Charleston Times Courier, Vlasina Travel, Cumberland High School, Champaign schools, Salt Fork High School, Charleston High School, Lake Land College, First Neighbor Bank, Casey State Bank, Danyel Reeve and to all of those listed below….
- nik rhoades
- Dragana Djordjic-Vidovic
- Andjelko Jovanovic
- Dario Debeljak
- Milos Vukotic
- Dušan Knežević
- Andrija Dudic
- Ivan Jelisavcic
- Tiha Puaca
- Angela Skocic
- Marijana Stojadinovic
- Mario Maric
- Marko Nikolic