A few days after 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.
He didn’t find it odd that kids were playing a summer sport as a chill began to creep in and the Christmas season approached. He was instead struck by the determination of the kids to play even though they had to make their bases out of odds and ends and used one tattered baseball that was bursting at the seams.
Miselis wasn’t playing Santa Claus when he got out of his car. But he wanted to do something to help those kids. Since he coached baseball, he always had some gear in his car.
“Last year, we brought in an incredible $ 4,910 and made 49 kids smile.” -- Mike Miselis
The kids were elated, but not nearly as elated as Miselis was. That simple act of kindness started him thinking about what else he might do to bring out those kinds of smiles from needy kids around the city.
When he got back to a computer, he began to send out e-mails to all the 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.
He soon found a sponsor, Foot Locker, who offered a shopping spree for kids at their Bayonne store and would kick in some donations as well. Within a couple of weeks, he had received thousands of dollars. After contacting the local school district to find the neediest kids in the city, he began to make kids smile by allowing them to buy new sneakers.
From 2006 to 2008, the campaign was able to raise an incredible $15,000 and help numerous families smile during the holidays.
“In 2009, we lost Foot Locker as a sponsor. So we were not able to pull off the event, and thus many kids lost out on a fun holiday and some much needed help,” Miselis said.
But last year, Modell’s Sporting Goods in Jersey City stepped up to the plate to act as the corporate sponsor for the program and made a significant donation to the campaign.
“Last year, we brought in an incredible $ 4,910 and made 49 kids smile,” Miselis said, hoping to repeat the success of the campaign this year. “As more and more donations come in, I am able to reach out to more families and invite their kids for a great day on Dec. 17 for a shopping spree at the Jersey City Modell’s store. Each kid will be given $100 to shop and buy whatever they need (clothes, gloves, sporting equipment, sneakers, etc.). As a result, we can all make so many kids and families happy for the holidays.”
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. “To see the smiles on those faces and making their Christmas a happy one is what it's all about. I encourage anyone to get involved and make a donation, regardless of how big or small the donation is. You will feel like a million bucks, and it will warm your heart.”
Anyone interested in making a donation can make it payable to “Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball” and put on the memo 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.