On Tuesday morning at Kreitner Elementary School (~10 miles from Busch Stadium) in Collinsville, Illinois, roughly 400 students sat patiently on their gymnasium's floor as Marisa Diaz, the special events and development director for Tsunami Waves, and three volunteers put on a presentation about Carlos Martinez's foundation. Considering the students and staff were allowed to wear Cardinals gear for the assembly and the fact that end of the school year was so near, you could get a sense of the excitement resonating throughout the gymnasium. That being said, there seemed to be an anxious and anticipatory feel to this excitement as well because neither the students nor the majority of the faculty and staff knew of the planned surprise to cap off the presentation.
The presentation opened with an ~18 minute video (available here) highlighting Martinez's hometown (Puerto Plata) in the Dominican Republic, a community that served as the primary inspiration behind the establishment of his foundation. In the video, Carlos takes viewers on a tour throughout his community, including his first home—a two-bedroom establishment that often housed over 10 people at any given time. He explains that he was never able to have sports equipment of his own, but through his foundation, he hopes that this does not have to be an issue for children in his community anymore. Over the offseason, after a season full of donations, Martinez was able to take the first step with his foundation, delivering more than 500 baseball gloves to his community back home.
At the conclusion of the video, and before opening the floor for questions about the foundation, Marisa announced that one lucky, but very much deserving student, who had read over two million words this year, was being invited to attend Martinez's Second Annual Celebrity Bowling Tournament in June. After answering a handful of questions and throwing out Tsunami Waves t-shirts to particularly eager participants, Marisa announced to the crowd, "Unfortunately, Carlos won't be able to make it today," and an audible sigh of collective disappointment came over the room. Admittedly, even though I knew Carlos was scheduled to attend the event, I bought into the announcement, knowing that the weather wasn't ideal and that traffic was pretty bad on the drive in.
After school principal Dr. Todd Pettit invited students to state who their favorite Cardinals player was into the microphone (nearly 100% of the responses were Martinez), it was time for the main event—Carlos had arrived. First and foremost, I apologize for recording Martinez's entrance vertically instead of horizontally (rookie move on my part):
Brief Clip of Martinez's Overall Message for the Students
Martinez's message was loud and clear at Tuesday's event: Listen to your parents (and secondarily, your teachers). Whatever your goal is in life, these two groups of people are almost always there to help you reach that goal.
Martinez Answering Questions
Martinez Sitting Among the Students
Martinez Signing Autographs on Tsunami Waves Cards
Enjoying One Last Photo Op with the Children
While this event did not have a fundraising component like the one at St. Cecilia covered by Heather, Martinez did not have any less of an impact. If a student had a question, Martinez answered it. If a student wanted a hug, Martinez provided the child with a meaningful hug. If an autograph was asked for (by either a student or a teacher), Martinez happily obliged. If a student wanted a picture, he made himself available for a picture. After providing an hour of his time in the gym, Martinez visited individual classrooms throughout the school, specifically the younger kids who were unable to attend the assembly. In all, Martinez probably signed at least 100 autographs, answered 50 questions, and was a part of roughly 300 personal photographs.
Martinez does not have to be doing any of this. We have probably all been to celebrity-hosted philanthropic events before where it feels like the celebrity is simply going through the motions, anticipating only the end of the event. This was not at all the case for Martinez. Martinez knows where he came from and knows the impact he can have by paying it forward. It was clear from the start that the children of Kreitner Elementary mean a whole lot to Martinez and his foundation, as they have already begun to set-up events for the future. A partnership between Tsunami Waves and Kreitner Elementary is especially meaningful considering 85-90% of enrollment is Hispanic and a good majority of the students' families fall below the poverty line.
What's most admirable about Martinez's participation in the morning event at Kreitner is the day immediately prior, Martinez could be found at Mercy Hospital playing air hockey with patients, followed by his support of the K-Cancer event hosted by former teammate Jason Motte. Thus, in less than 24 hours, Martinez was able to utilize a Cardinals' off day by making an impact on a countless number of lives. To me, that's much more impressive than anything he can do on the baseball diamond.
Please visit the foundation website at www.tsunamiwavesfoundation.com. Should the Viva El Birdos community be interested, I would be more than happy to get in touch with Marisa about setting up some sort of VEB-hosted fundraising for Carlos's foundation. At the very least, I'd be willing to collect baseball gloves at a future VEB Day and deliver them to the foundation. If interested, please make a note of it in the comments section or send me an email (stlcupofjoe at gmail dot com).