Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 8, 2011

Blue Jays make Christmas brighter through Toys for Tots

BLUEFIELD — When Bluefield Blue Jays Booster President Linda Krondon was first asked to put a Christmas tree up in the club house by Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg, she was a bit surprised.

She had every right to be. It was summer time.

Yet when Krondon found out what Holmberg was trying to accomplish, she understood.

“He gets the players to get involved with the community,” Krondon said. “The pitchers had to buy a girls gift and the position players had to buy a boys gift. Dennis asked the booster’s club to find an organization that we could help.

“We thought it would be great for Toys for Tots so we could help kick off their season. These gifts our from the players, coaching staff and the boosters. This is the first year they’ve done anything like this around here.”

Holmberg had his players buy gifts which will be distributed to underprivileged youth. Those gifts, with the help of the boosters club, will now be going to Toys for Tots.

“We appreciate you for coming up with the idea you had for doing this,” Toys for Tots area director Al Harmon said to Holmberg via speakerphone at Bowen Field on Friday. “Thank you for everything you’ve done. We appreciate it very much. These toys will go a long way in helping fill the need in our area.”

“That’s terrific,” Holmberg said by phone. “You guys do a terrific job. It’s a terrific service.

“I’m just glad we can put just a little something in for the kids. I’m tickled pink that Toys for Tots are a part of this. Hopefully, we’ll do it again next year.”

Krondon and the boosters hope for the same as well. They want to get everyone involved.

“We’re going to leave the tree up,” she said. “We’ll leave it up and next year well start it again. We try to do it bigger next year.

“We hope to have someone sponsor a night next year where if you bring a gift, you get in free. We want to try to get that so we have more gifts to give. We want to work it where we can do it on the last home game and have all the Toys for Tots people there.”

The idea of the Christmas tree originated in Auburn, N.Y. when Holmberg was a manager in the New York-Penn League.

“It was something different,” Holmberg said back in August when he first showed off the tree.

““Beyond being different in the clubhouse as far as putting up a Christmas tree, but having every player buy gifts for either boys or girls.

“They’ve a great opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream to play pro ball. Giving back for something that they’ve been given an opportunity, whether it’s a 10 or 15 dollar gift it’s the least they can do.”

Those gifts will touch the lives of thousands of children throughout Mercer, McDowell, Monroe, Summers and Tazewell counties.

“I was surprised when we got the call and they said they were wanting to do something like this,” Harmon said. “It’s always great when an organization like the ball club wants to give our Toys for Tots campaign, especially with the season is over.

“It’s good they want to do something like this knowing the kids they are going to help our kids who might not have much of Christmas. We try to give six to eight toys to every child we help. A lot of these ballplayers are from out of the state or country, but still they are giving to the children of West Virginia and Virginia. It’s good to see them do stuff like this.”

The tree and gifts allows Holmberg to accomplish his goal of getting the team involved in the community and giving back.

“Dennis teaches the boys to get involved in the community and share,” Krondon said. “They picked these gifts out themselves. It was so funny watching them going through the store and picking out what they wanted.

“They said the girls gifts were the worst to pick out. They said ‘goodness gracious, do you know how much a barbie doll costs.’ But, they all enjoyed it and they all had a good time.”

Now, many children of the area will be able to enjoy those toys and have a good time.

“This community is one the giving-est communities that you’ll find anywhere,” Harmon said. “We helped almost 4,000 children last year and expect to help 5,000 this year. We always seem to be able to take care of all of them.”

— Contact Jonathan Greene

at jgreene@bdtonline.com

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