A day before Thanksgiving in 2006, Mike Miselis, vice president of the Cal Ripken Baseball League, was driving near 11th Street when he saw some kids playing baseball.
“It was a cold blustery afternoon,” he said. “I noticed three kids playing a make shift game of baseball. I had to pull my car over and watch them because what caught my eye was that the kids were all without jackets and they did not even have the essentials. They had bases made out of paper bags and they had one baseball and a wooden bat that seemed to be way too small for these kids. Nonetheless, they were pitching and hitting and running the bases with no baseball gloves and still having the time of their lives. It was quite obvious to me they came from families that did not have much and so I got out of my car. I yelled over to the boys to come on over to the fence. Being a coach myself I always have baseball equipment in my car. I threw over to them half a dozen new baseballs and four bases that I had in the car and said 'enjoy.'”
When he got back to a computer, he began to send out emails to parents and other people associated with the league, asking them for donations. He thought if he raised enough money, he could help some needy kids for the holidays.
“I then came up with an idea. I asked everyone who would listen if they could make a donation – whatever size, a dollar, $10 or whatever they could afford, it did not matter,” he said. “My goal was to raise maybe a few hundred dollars and with that money I would take several kids who could use the help to our league sponsor and we would with everyone's help buy sneakers for the less fortunate kids. But what happened over the next few hours and upcoming days was something out of a fairy tale. Instead of a few hundred dollars, the donations were pouring in, in all size denominations. My email box was lighting up like a Christmas tree and thus the Make a Kid Smile campaign was officially created.”
From 2006 to 2008, the campaign was able to raise an incredible amount of money and help numerous families smile during the holidays. He called it a team effort that included parents and families working with him to get it done.
“Six years later, so many generous people have helped raise over $25,000 and helped hundreds and hundreds of kids over the years from families who either kids were struggling or the families themselves who needed some help,” he said. “For the past three years including this year, Modell's Sporting Goods has taken over the lead sponsor role. They donated $500 again this year and along with Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball helped our Make a Kid Smile campaign a huge success. As we have done for the past two years, the kids will be taken to Modell’s in Jersey City for the big day on Dec. 23rd. Each kid will be able to spend $100 each and hopefully it will be a Christmas to remember.”
As he has in the past, Miselis has reached out to the schools to find families from each school who may be having a difficult time.
“This assures us that the donations are going in the right hands and to families who are truly in need,” he said.
Anyone interested in making a donation can make it payable to Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball and put in the memo line of the check “Make a Kid Smile.” The address is Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball, P.O. Box 3260, Bayonne, N.J., 07002. Anyone with questions or interested in helping can call (201) 436-8787.