One boy’s trash is another boy’s treasure
By Susan A. Romano, Air Force Technical Applications Center Public Affairs
/ Published July 09, 2013
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For someone who doesn't play baseball, doesn't follow baseball, and doesn't even know the rules of the game, he sure does have a lot invested in the sport.
Rafael Nuñez, a computer security manager for the Air Force Technical Applications Center here, has spent the past seven months collecting baseball equipment for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic. It started out as a way to reach out to his family's community after visiting his parents in their native homeland.
"Last year I flew down to see my family in Santiago," said Nuñez. "While I was there, my dad took me by a small village called Villa Gonzalez where I saw local boys playing baseball. They were using juice cartons as gloves, wadded-up rags as baseballs, and flattened out milk jugs as bases. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to do something to help these kids."
He returned home and asked around in his circle of friends if they had any old equipment lying around that their children weren't using anymore. He thought he might get a couple of worn out gloves, some beaten-up cleats and a few old baseball bats that had seen better days.
But what began as a solo effort to collect a few items from neighbors and co-workers has since blossomed into a veritable cottage industry for Nuñez.
"It can definitely be defined as a domino effect, there is no doubt about it," Nuñez said. "I basically went from boxing up some T-shirts and baseballs and shipping them back to D.R., to having major donors like the Florida Senior Sports Association, Viera-Suntree Little League, Pizza Gallery & Grill, and the owner of Your Simple Media contacting me to ask what they can do to help out. It has been an amazing journey."
Nuñez' most recent trip to the island nation saw more than 2,000 pieces of equipment distributed to nearly 400 children. On his first trip, he traveled with a friend. But on his most recent trip, he traveled with 26 other 'givers' as he calls them -- fellow citizens and donors and even an Indian Harbour Beach Councilman.
When the traveling troupe arrived, word spread of their visit so widely that even the mayor of El Limón, José L. Rodriguez, showed up to witness the equipment being distributed and remained with them throughout their visit.
For four days, the group met with impoverished boys who aspire to become professional baseball players. Aspirations aside, an even bigger message resonated with the group of travelers: the message of thanks and gratitude.
"During our visits, we gave out a ton of stuff, including bags of food, and the most rewarding aspect was seeing these two nations come together with generous hearts," Nuñez said. "Despite the language barrier, so much was constantly expressed -- not just through the aid of a translator, but from the smiles on people's faces and tears in their eyes."
Because of the outpour of support and contributions, Nuñez founded a non-profit organization called 'Giving Feels Awesome,' whose charter is to "embrace opportunities to connect givers at every level to underprivileged children in need of a lift, hope and happiness through sports participation."
Anyone interested in finding out more about the organization or to donate to the cause can send an email to GivingFeelsAwesome@gmail.com visit the organization's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GivingFeelsAwesome.
"Five years from now, my goal is for GFA to revolutionize the true concept of giving, where communities and individuals alike will benefit from the generosity of others. Giving truly does feel awesome!"
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