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Long Islanders send baseball gear to kids in need

A pile of hundreds of baseball equipment items,

A pile of hundreds of baseball equipment items, including helmets, gloves, bats, baseballs and cleats that have been collected for donation to the children of the Dominican Republic for its little league programs, is pictured at Gunther Field in North Bellmore. The equipment was donated by the North Bellmore/North Merrick, Bellmore Blue Fire and Freeport little leagues. A group effort between DHL Express, Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, and Long Island Ducks player Timo Perez helped make the donation possible. (Aug. 8, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

When 10-year-old Frankie Yandolino thought about how difficult it would be to play softball without the necessary gear — baseballs, a bat, a helmet — she couldn’t imagine how she would play the sport she loves.

That is why she and other baseball and softball players worked together with Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and DHL Express shipping company to collect gently used baseball gear to send to kids in need who love baseball in the Dominican Republic.

“I think it’s good because we give kids a chance to play with good equipment,” Yandolino, a member of the Bellmore Blue Fire softball team, said.

The idea was the brainchild of Bonilla, who has been sending what he can to those in the Dominican Republic for years after hearing from a baseball team there that kids were in dire need of the proper gear. When he learned through the Boy and Girl Scouts of America that DHL sends items like Christmas trees and cookies to soldiers overseas, he got the idea to make giving to kids in Latin American countries a bigger venture.

He teamed up with the North Bellmore/North Merrick and Freeport little leagues and the Bellmore Blue Fire, asking coaches and parents for any used equipment that was no longer needed. DHL offered to ship any items collected for free to Bonilla’s contact in the Dominican Republic.

Wednesday, boys and girls from the leagues gathered at Gunther Field in North Bellmore to help finish packing the more than 3,000 items collected and load the boxes into a waiting DHL truck.

North Bellmore/North Merrick Rebels coach Ralph Valentino said baseball equipment can be expensive, so the leagues and parents are always looking for ways to get the most out of their investment.

“For some items, like cleats, they only get a season out of them because they grow so much,” he said, pointing to his own son, Michael, 13.

Parents enjoyed the chance to give to others, but also the valuable lesson it taught the kids.

“I think it’s a great lessons for the children that we have so much and sometimes take it for granted,” said Gara Rosenberg of North Bellmore.

Lisa Roes of North Bellmore said, “It’s basically paying it forward.”

Also on hand at the event was Long Island Ducks and former Mets player Timo Perez. Bonilla used Timo’s story — of growing up in the Dominican Republic and making it to the Major Leagues — to encourage the kids.

“He is positive proof that anything is possible,” he said, pointing to Perez standing beside him. “Always give 100 percent and you can be the next Timo Perez.”

Now, Bonilla hopes to make the successful collection an annual event and send the gear to different Latin American countries in need each year.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” he said.

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