By Sam Greene (JMU Class of 18)
The Harrisonburg community is a wonderfully supportive one. That’s exactly why the Harrisonburg Little League Association (HLLA) has a consistent group of volunteers that have no children or no stake in the league volunteer. They want to show their support and their pure love of the game and the children in the league.
That volunteer group would be delighted to take on a few more sports lovin’ citizens—especially parents!
Donnie Ange, a mechanic by day and HLLA coach for nine years now, was first asked by a friend to step in to coach a baseball team. He’s still doing it. Donnie shares, “Honestly, fun is what keeps me around now.”
But, echoing the thoughts of many such volunteers, he adds, “I wish more parents would come out, because as much as I love helping out here, I know [kids] would be happier to see their family on the sideline too.”
But sometimes that’s easier said than done, and for good reason. According to the US Department of Health and Human services, Harrisonburg’s single parent rates are marginally higher than the national median. HLLA supporters understand that this reality plays a role in the parent volunteer base. Single parents typically work more hours a week than those of two-parent households. More work means less available time to volunteer.
However, there are always exceptions, as one devoted single mother of two HLLA players proves. Leyna Damico works full time in language software sales to provide for her family, almost 50+ hours a week. Damico began volunteering with the Harrisonburg Little League because she wanted her kids to experience a sport they hadn’t tried yet. Two years later she remains as a Team Parent to her children’s teams.
Team Parent is a valuable role. Team Parents help coordinate everything from scheduling of practices, helping organize fundraising, reminding parents of picture day and upcoming events, arranging concession stand duty, and maybe even driving team members back and forth for practice.
But her own children aren’t the only reason Damico feels a connection with the league. “My first year volunteering, I knew a child that could not afford the deposit to play with the league,” she recalls. “I arranged for him to receive a scholarship from the little league association so he could play that year. That was a happy moment for me”.
Damico is leaving a positive mark on the Harrisonburg Little League, and it seems to be reciprocal. She’s also proof that hardworking, dedicated, single parents in our area can volunteer their time without taking too much out of busy schedules.
As Damico explains, “A great time for volunteering is actually before the season starts, each team needs sponsors to pay for jerseys and equipment. A few phone calls from parents to community businesses would definitely help out.”
Other options for parents to support HLLA and their children is to be in charge of concession stands at games on Saturdays or volunteer to drive additional players to their games.
HLLA volunteers like Ange and Damico have learned that, when they first signed up to help, they were actually signing up to have fun and help kids develop in a happy, healthy environment while making memories that last a lifetime. The time commitment might seem like a bit much for busy parents, but Ange and Damico believe the rewards are worth it.
There are plenty of small ways to help; even passing out oranges to players after the game can be a lasting memory for parents and their children.
Best of all, parents are a player’s personal fan base. There’s nothing quite like having family on hand to watch them shine when it’s their turn at bat.
But volunteers and parents also win. “Seeing younger siblings of kids I used to coach, now playing, really makes me happy,” Ange says.
And, as Ange and Damico know, even when schedules are full, there are plenty of small ways to help out. As great a community organization as HLLA is, it can only get better with more parents!
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All content is managed by Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Isaac Woo (firstname.lastname@example.org), faculty director of Bluestone Communications, if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.