Weeks after returning from the inaugural Global Baseball Adventures summer youth baseball trip to the Dominican Republic, Isaias Franco (GBA founder) couldn’t stop talking about the experience.
“The baseball was amazing, the food was mouth watering, everyone we met became family and the community service was life changing. When I came home I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do to ensure that our presence in the Dominican Republic would be felt long after our trip was over”
Although the Dominican Republic is rich with baseball, it was evident to everyone on the trip that poverty was rampant and the trickle down effect is an education system that was hurting for even the most basic supplies.
“In my hometown, children have to share pencils and new paper doesn’t even exist at La Piedra School”, said Pedro Liriano (MLB guest coach during the trip).
As a lifelong educator, Isaias couldn’t fathom the thought of students starting the new school year without even the most basic supplies. After racking his brain and sending a flurry of texts to friends who might be able to help, a get together at the local Starbucks with his friend Elaine Wilkinson and her son Louis was planned. Little did Isaias know that a conversation over coffee would lead to the most exciting first day of school at Coach Liriano’s hometown of Fantino, Dominican Republic.
A Spark of Inspiration found at Starbucks
As the coffee cooled and the conversation turned to making a difference in the lives of others, Elaine & Louis Wilkinson’s excitement was evident. Elaine, a lifelong philanthropist, has clearly passed down her love of giving to her son Louis who as an 8th grader has already started his own charity geared towards sending school supplies to developing countries around the world. Sitting in Starbucks that day the patrons must have thought that Elaine, Louis and Isaias were solving all of the world’s problems with the amount of exciting ideas being thrown back and forth across the table. At the end of their conversation, Elaine and Louis had already created a list of community members, teachers and friends who they thought would be able to help supply every student at La Piedra School with much needed supplies. With only a few weeks of summer left, this was no small task!
Over the next few weeks, Isaias received texts from Elaine with exciting updates and pictures of Louis packing up school supplies. With each update, Isaias would share these messages and photos with Coach Liriano in the Dominican Republic. When one thinks of a Major League pitcher, an image of a stoic and tough athlete is usually conjured up but Coach Liriano’s reaction upon hearing of the donations brought him to tears.
“No one was ever done this for our school before, most people have never even heard of La Piedra”, said Coach Liriano.
As the summer came to an end and mounds of school supplies for the children of La Piedra School piled up in the Wilkinson residence a new challenge was posed for Elaine, Louis and Isaias: how to safely ship school supplies to a town that doesn’t even show up on most maps?
A First Strike
With this question in hand, Isaias went directly to the expert on sending items to the Dominican Republic: Coach Liriano. While playing in the Big Leagues, Coach Liriano would always send gifts to his family in the Dominican Republic. “Never use anything but FedEx when sending items to the Dominican, stuff will not arrive if you use another company. It’s the sad reality”. With that advice in hand and a an address for La Piedra School, Elaine and Louis took their giant package of over 50 lbs of school supplies to the local FedEx store only to find out that the provided address could not even be located in their database since the town is so small. Strike 1!
Not to be discouraged by such a small detail, Isaias quickly reached out to Coach Liriano to make a plan to ensure that the school supplies would be delivered in time for the start of the school year. Coach Liriano informed Isaias that just an hour north of La Piedra is a FedEx warehouse where oversized items could be shipped care of individuals. With the warehouse address in hand, Isaias quickly reached out to Elaine and Louis who were on a mission to not strike out again.
Within days of getting the new address Elaine & Louis headed back to FedEx only to find out that the cost of shipping the school supplies to the Dominican Republic would cost more than the actual value of the package. Without missing a beat, the generosity of the Wilkinson family poured out as they graciously paid to ship the package to the Dominican Republic.
With the FedEx tracking number in hand, Elaine, Louis, Isaias and Coach Liriano tracked the package on its 3,000 mile journey to the Dominican Republic. After a suspenseful week of continually checking online for delivery updates, the day finally arrived where the students of La Piedra would receive (for the first time) brand new school supplies.
An Amazing First Day of School
Coach Liriano described the school supply donation day:
“There were tears and smiles like I had never seen before. The hugs from the kids were so strong and meaningful”
Although a pencil and a sheet of paper may seem mundane, to the students of La Piedra School they represent hope, success and access to an education.
Global Baseball Adventures wants to thank Elaine and Louis Wilkinson for their sincere generosity and support in making a difference in the lives of our friends in the Dominican Republic.
- Do you have school supplies that need a new home?
- Want to help improve a student’s life in the Dominican Republic?
Contact Isaias Franco as he’s actively collecting school supplies to donate on the next Dominican Republic baseball trip.