“Last year we brought in the second highest total ever, $7,150, and made around 70 kids happy for Christmas,” he said. To date for the past six years we have raised more than $32,000 and helped hundreds and hundreds of kids’ families.”
His story has become a local holiday legend.
“About seven years ago I was driving by the 11th street field on Ave E in Bayonne,” he said. “It was a cold blustery afternoon the day before Thanksgiving. I noticed three kids playing a
makeshift 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 but 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. At that moment, and I kid you not, it was one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Those kids’ smiles were as precious as any that I had ever witnessed or been a part of and they were thanking me so much over and over like I was giving them gold.” That’s where the name “Make a Kid Smile” came from.
All he did for those kids was to give them six baseballs and four old bases he had in his car, and they thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them.
“I got in my car and remember feeling an incredible desire to do something more. I got on my computer like I am doing right now and started typing up a long email to all the parents in the Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball league along with all my family and friends in my contact email list,” he said. “I told them the story, explained that something so small to us could mean everything to some not well-off kids, and 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. 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 Foot Locker here in Bayonne and we would, with everyone's help, buy sneakers for the less fortunate kids.”
What happened over the next few hours and upcoming days was something out of an old-time Christmas movie like the letters arriving at court during “Miracle on 34th Street.” Donations started pouring in, and his email box lit up like a Christmas tree, he said.
For the last four years—including this year—Modell’s Sporting Goods, a local sponsor for the league, has donated $500 to kick off the campaign, and kids will be taken to Modell’s in Jersey City on Dec. 22 where each will be able to spend $100.
“A very important concept of this is that the kids are chosen from all the public schools in Bayonne and families’ names are given to me by the principals and secretaries of the schools as they are the best judge in knowing what kids and families may need the help and who may be experiencing some tough times,” Miselis said.
Donations can be made to Bayonne Cal Ripken Baseball League and mailed to P.O. Box 3260, Bayonne, NJ 07002. Write “Make a Kid Smile” on the check. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the league at (201) 436-8787.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.