The D-backs organization has proven to be one of the top community leaders in the Valley of the Sun year after year, and this past weekend the D-backs Give Back League traveled to Hillsboro, Ore., to share the spirit of giving back. Home to the D-backs' Class A affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops, D-backs employees and executives worked with Oregon-based charity Albertina Kerr to help with their mission to strengthen Oregon families and communities by providing services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, hearing loss and mental health challenges.
The D-backs Give Back League, created in 2012, is a unique volunteer effort that ties the organization's culture of innovation to its community contributions and involvement. It was created by employees of the organization seeking to find a way to volunteer for organizations that matter most to them. The program consists of more than 100 employee volunteers on nine teams. Each team members determined a project that was meaningful to them and carried out their project throughout the baseball season.
During this past offseason, the nine teams presented what they had accomplished in the Phoenix community to their colleagues at Chase Field, with team Fostering Hope being voted as the winner by D-backs employees, based on community impact, creativity, resourcefulness, team commitment and financial efficiency.
Fostering Hope team leader and D-backs director of ticket sales Ryan Holmstedt explained why his group was so dedicated and willing to share their story with others.
"The opportunity to work with kids that have been put in an unfortunate situation at no fault of their own has really touched our whole team's heart," said Holmstedt. "If the opportunity puts a smile on their face for even a day, it motivates us to continue to do more."
Holmstedt also mentioned that Fostering Hope created three areas of focus, including renovation projects, mentoring kids and bringing awareness to the foster care issue. Albertina Kerr perfectly aligned with Fostering Hope's goals, and therefore the team determined it was a great partnership to continue their mission in Hillsboro.
As soon as the plane landed on Saturday, the D-backs Give Back League participants were on their way to serve dinner for foster care providers and the kids they provide for. The foster providers enjoyed a barbecue dinner on the patio of Albertina Kerr, while the kids worked on art projects in the garden.
Associate director of corporate development and giving Nanda Sturm explained how the charity relies on volunteers, and how both Albertina Kerr and the D-backs Give Back League worked together to improve foster care issues.
"We were lucky enough to have the D-backs choose Albertina Kerr, and immediately we identified all of the opportunities we had coming up," said Sturm. "Knowing that foster care is a passion of the D-backs, we thought the dinner would be a great event. The foster providers are asked a lot during the year, and this is a great way to thank them for all they do. Volunteers are the keystone of our organization, and we are honored to have the D-backs help out this weekend."
Early Sunday morning, the staff headed out to four group homes to help build picnic tables, a tetherball, porch swings and gardens. In some homes, the kids jumped in to lend a helping hand as well.
Not long after, Hillsboro Hops players and coaches joined in to assist even after arriving in town just five hours earlier on a long overnight bus trip from Vancouver, British Columbia. At one of the group homes, Hops coaches J.R. House and Doug Drabek helped transport dirt to build a garden. On the other end of the yard, Hops hitting coach Mark Grace and players Elvin Soto, Dustin Loggins and Justin Gonzalez assembled picnic tables.
Hops general manager K.L. Wombacher was impressed with the progress that had been completed earlier in the morning, and he noted that the project was something important to the Hops, especially having the opportunity to work together alongside others from the D-backs' family.
"It's an honor for us to have the D-backs' staff choose Hillsboro out of all the affiliates, and for them to come to our community in only our second year means a lot," Wombacher said. "We have always been a big believer that you give to the community before you expect anything from them, and being actively involved consistently is very important to us."
To complete the trip, more than 200 kids from Albertina Kerr enjoyed an evening at the D-backs' game with the D-backs Give Back League. Prior to the game, nine kids from Albertina Kerr presented pieces of art made by adults in the "Art from the Heart" program to the Hops' starting lineup on the field.
At the end of the third inning of a game that eventually ended with a walk-off home run by Hops second baseman Pedro Ruiz to seal a 4-3 victory, D-backs vice president of community impact Debbie Castaldo presented a check for $10,000 to Albertina Kerr, signifying the amount invested in the early morning projects.
Castaldo explained why it was important for the D-backs to bring their culture of giving to the Hillsboro community.
"To bring our mission more than 1,300 miles to our affiliate and share this with our D-backs family is truly special," Castaldo said. "Hillsboro is a gorgeous place, and we are so proud to be associated with the Hops and contribute to this great community."
Katie Krause is the D-backs' manager of corporate communications. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.