SHOWELL – The popular phrase “Think Globally, Act
Locally,” has taken on many connotations over the years, but there is, perhaps,
no greater example of the sentiment then the remarkable contributions made by
area students to a locally-based but globally-oriented foundation that ships
donated new and slightly used sports equipment to underprivileged children all
over the world.
Many local residents will likely remember young Sammy
Wilkinson, who died tragically a few years ago when he fell through the ice at
a frozen pond at Northside Park in Ocean City. While the memories of the
tragedy still linger in the community, local residents can take solace in the
fact the Sammy Wilkinson Memorial Foundation dedicated in his name is achieving
results on a grand scale in tiny outposts around the world where children don’t
have the same opportunities as Sammy did to experience the joy of sports.
Sammy’s grandfather, Fred Engh, who is the founder and
director of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), conceived of the
idea of establishing a memorial foundation in Sammy’s name and using its
resources to bring organized youth sports programs to children in Third World
countries where sports are often played on rocky fields with little or no
equipment. Under Engh’s direction, NAYS established the Game On! youth sports
initiative to provide countries around the world with a way to develop sports
programming for children at their schools, after school and in the community.
An outcropping of the Game On program has been the Global
Gear Drive, which is essentially the heart and soul of the Sammy Wilkinson
Memorial Foundation. The concept of the Global Gear Drive is to collect used
sporting goods that have been discarded but still have some life left in them
and ship the sports equipment to areas around the world where it is needed the
Under the direction of Sammy’s father, Bob Wilkinson, one
half of the popular acoustic duo Opposite Directions, the program has been
wildly successful in collecting truckloads of slightly used and even new sports
equipment through several drives held in the area including collection sites at
Northside Park in Ocean City and at several area schools including Stephen
Decatur High School.
The latest shipment of sporting goods for the Sammy
Wilkinson Memorial Foundation was loaded up last Friday at Showell Elementary
and prepared to be sent to all over the world where the new and slightly used
gear will get new life in the hands of children who desperately need it. The
Showell students collected hundreds of balls, bats, sports shoes, lacrosse
sticks, tennis rackets, uniforms, helmets, gloves and every other conceivable
piece of sports equipment and lined it all up in the main hallway of the school
With the help of students from Decatur’s “Connections”
program, Bob Wilkinson loaded up the gear into several vehicles and transported
it to his garage in Ocean Pines where it will be sorted and prepared to be sent
to NAYS headquarters in Florida. Typically, Wilkinson sends collected gear to
Florida via UPS or other commercial carriers, but because of the size of the
load collected by the Showell Elementary students, trucks will sent from NAYS
headquarters to pick up the latest load.
Hundreds of students participated in the effort at Showell
Elementary under the direction of coordinators Robin Wolinsky and Lori
Sullivan. The sporting goods contributed by students and parents at Showell
were just the latest in a much wider effort on behalf of the program throughout
the area. For example, similar collections have been conducted at Northside
Park in Ocean City under the guidance of long-time Recreation and Parks
supervisor Al “Hondo” Handy.
Other collection programs have also taken place at Berlin
Intermediate, with Susan Johnson supervising, and at Ocean City Elementary
under the watchful eye of Tracey Drocella. One of the largest efforts in the
area took place at Stephen Decatur, where students participating in the
“Connections” program developed an offshoot called “Seahawks for Sammy” under
the direction of Laurie Chetelat and her husband Bryan.
Principal Lou Taylor and the school’s entire physical
education program including baseball manager Rich Ferro and his coaches and
Athletic Director and softball manager Don Howard and his coaches participated
in the Global Gear Drive effort.
Among the Decatur students participating in the effort
were Kara Gover, Melissa Evans, Lindsay Chetelat, Courtney Hever, Catelin
Geiser, Chris Powell, Bill Smith, Elizabeth Burton, Brooks Sullivan, Aionyel Parks,
Erin McGuire, Larry Ryan, Christy Stutzel, Jillian Whaley, Leah James, Chad
Kail, Dillon Lucas, Patrick O’Brien, Joe Reynolds, Megan Lawton, Kyle
Shrewbury, Sydney Waters, Rosa Navarra, Taylor Phillips, and Gwen Price.