September 2011: Trip 60 to Ukraine in twenty years......
Arrived in Kyiv on Friday 9/16/11,,,,,construction of new terminals at Borispol Airport was visible, signs of upcoming Euro 2012 everywhere.....modern Ukraine?? I picked up my rented car and fought the traffic as I entered the capital of Ukraine. A new adventure.
Saturday I drove to Ostroh, near Rivne, onto the grounds of one of the National Universities of Ukraine, where a new softball field was nearing completion. Met with Gennady Stadnikov, President of the Ostroh LL baseball program and Head of the Physical Education program at the Ostroh Academy. Chatted about the requirements of holding the 13th Ukraine Little League Championships in Ostroh in 2012. Had the pleasure of visiting, once again, an internat for deaf students who are in the process of reviving their baseball program. Hopefully there will take part in the 2012 Championship.
Sunday 9/18 , onward to Lviv to meet with Roman Leskiw, retired Marine from CT, to plan for the 4th Ukraine Little League Championships for children from internats.
Tuesday 9/20, arrived at Kremenets to greet the four all - star teams which hoped to capture the 4th Ukraine Little League Baseball Championships for orphans in Ukraine.
This Championship series was officially sanctioned by the Ukraine Ministry of Sports and supported by the Ukraine Baseball & Softball Federation.
All - star teams from Donetsk, Letuhene, Mizoch and host Kremenets took part. All the games were held on the grounds of the orphanage (internat). Earlier I had invited orphans from Tulchyn (Rivne oblast) to play two exhibition games. So five teams participated. Fifty- five children including one girl took part.
All the children were dressed in full baseball uniforms donated by caring people in the USA. Special thanks to Pitch In For Baseball (PA) which donated the complete uniforms. Special thanks to the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee - UUARC for shipping uniforms and equipment for the children.
Opening ceremonies had the entire student body of the internat present, very impressive. In my opening comments I was proud and honored to mention that the California Association of Aid to Ukraine (CAAU) and the Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union served as the official sponsors of this years Championship.
This year I added one more day for the Championships in order to hold a one day clinic for the children led by Shane Braidenbaugh (Florida). Thanks to them for sharing their knowledge with the children.
In addition to the games played, the children were taken every day to various cultural venues and, for the first time, there was a police escort to provide safety as the bus loaded with children slowly chugged along its merry way.
Places visited included, Monastery at Pochaiv, Sloventsky Museum, Kremenets Childrens Museum, Remnants of Kremenets Castle, Military Museum, and the Holy Well of St. Anna. A once in a lifetime experience for the children.
Continuing the yearly tradition, we had three US Peace Corps Volunteers serve as umpires and scorers. My association with Peace Corps - USA continues to grow. These wonderful volunteers represent the very best that America has for the future. Kids loved them. The children enjoyed conversing with the PCVs in Ukrainian,,,,,,as did I. Thanks to Samantha Kyrkostas ( Sea Cliff, NY) , Morgan Roth ( Martiez, CA) and Damon Smith ( Lincolnshire IL) for being there for the children.
For the first time I scheduled a Ukraine Little League meeting during the time of the games,,,and I held a lottery for equipment. Sixteen coaches participated in a two day meeting which included a seminar on drills that can be done inside a gymnasium during the winter. Fourteen boxes of baseball equipment have been shipped to Ukraine. David Fantin (Texas) sent 8 boxes and I shipped six boxes. This is much needed equipment for the schools and internats...thanks David.
Totals::: six boxes: 4 bats, 13 helmets, 168 used baseballs, 56 used softballs, 78 new baseballs, 39 tennis balls, 12 t shirts, 28 caps, 20 pair of pants, 2 pair of shin guards, 4 chest protectors, 19 new gloves, 20 used gloves, 6 catcher helmets.
And on Saturday 9/24 we hosted the the annual lottery for children, each child took away 2 or 3 gifts,,,,,and their smiles were soooooo wide. Thanks to the Peace Corps Volunteers for their assistance.
In addition the following equipment was given to the teams and to the coaches attending the meeting / clinic. Summary of the items: 96 new baseballs, 11 bats, 30 gloves, 38 softballs, 8 pair of shin guards, 18 chest protectors, 8 helmets, 94 used baseballs, 67 pants, 98 caps, 105 shirts, 83 socks, 34 belts, 48 tennis balls, 12 wiffle balls and 5 equipment bags.On Sunday 9/25 the Championship game was held between Donetsk and Mizoch all star teams with Donetsk coming away with an easy victory. Final score was 15 - 3. Gratitude to Volodymyr Mishko, Director of the Kremenets Internat, which celebrated its 50th year of existence, for arranging for the music and the wonderful weather as the sun shined on the heads of each child. Smiles were ever present as the souvenirs and participation certificates were being distributed. The most moving moment was the singing the Ukrainian National Anthem by all the children and the entire student body,,, tears fell down my cheeks....and I was not the only one.....others felt the same way.
All the children were winners.
This endeavor that I and so many others contributed to has one main goal, to show by example, by word and by deed that there are people across the ocean and in Ukraine who care for each and every child. Each boy and girl was treated kindly and with the utmost respect each and every day. We cared for them. The hope is that in the future these children will remember what they experienced here during these six days and in turn will care for others as well. We did our part. We will do so again in the future, come and join us if you can.
Next Fall will mark the 5th Ukraine Little League Baseball Championship for children 11 and 12 years of age from internats. I am always looking expand the youth baseball program to more orphanages for 2012 and beyond. Recommendations are welcome. Please contact me.
Please accept the heart felt thanks from all the children that you took care of for those six wonderful days by your good deeds.
The following individuals and organizations made this 4th Championship for children from internats a truly memorable one.
Thank you for helping me help the children of Ukraine.